Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding

We are headed a new direction with Science as of late. I will admit here - this is not a strong subject for me. It never was, and I was really unsure of where I wanted to go with it. I have tried several things, even going so far as to scour books, trying to make it interesting and exciting - I just don't have a brain geared for a love of Science. Nor a way to make it fun!

I know how Montessori teaches Science, but don't have the manuals to do so. I was at a loss, but decided to look again in to a book recommended by MBT at What Did We Do All Day? -
Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding (henceforth known as BFSU), written by Bernard J Nebel.

An excerpt from the Introduction:

"In summary, this text is designed to: provide a steppingstone-like sequence of lessons that facilitates systematic building of concepts; maintain interest by centering lessons on what children regularly experience; engage children’s own thinking in reaching rational conclusions; and integrate other subjects."

Nebel, Bernard J. (2007-11-30). Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2 (p. 2). Outskirts Press, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

I have seen several posts from MBT about using it in her own home, and figured it would be $9.99 well spent on the Kindle version if it worked. I wish now I had bought it MONTHS ago. If you looked close enough at the excerpt, you would see it's from the K-2nd grade volume. Although LM and Hoss aren't in the early grades, the book is set up systematically, instead of a pick-and-choose variety of lessons, and I didn't want to risk not touching on something they needed. The good news is, there are two more volumes, so if this works well for us, we will be able to continue on. There is a flowchart in the beginning of the book, giving you a good idea of the order of lessons - there is some flexibility with this, so I am trying to pre-plan the order of lessons, and keep a good smooth flow to what we work on.
There are four major threads - NATURE OF MATTER, LIFE SCIENCE, PHYSICAL SCIENCE, and EARTH/SPACE SCIENCE. As it stands we will be elbows deep in all, flowing in and out between threads.

The first lesson was simply learning to categorize (organize) your surroundings. I inroduced the new (to some) vocabulary of categorize and organize. We talked and walked through the kitchen, stopping at the utensils drawer to talk about the organization and different categories of silverware, and talked about the grocery store and how they have to categorize their merchandise to make things easy to find. Hoss brought up a local pizza place in town and gave an example of them keeping their silverware on the buffet organized and separate so that people can find what they need, and we discussed how nice that was so that there weren't people we didn't know touching all the silverware trying to find what they needed (he's had pizza on the brain here lately, and really wants to take me out - read: go out so he can play the quarter games in the game room, and get to eat pizza!). 

Then I pulled out these baskets, prepared ahead of time for this lesson. I threw an assortment of objects in there, that could make for several different ways to classify the contents. 

Then, we divided in two teams - LM and Hoss on one, Miss Priss and I on the other - oh, and the third team, Bug and Buddy Boy, were napping :) . I gave them directions to decide among themselves how they wanted to classify their objects, and not to say it out loud - keep it as a surprise. Below are the ways they chose:

Miss Priss chose first to sort hers according to big and small.

LM and Hoss went with color

They wanted to do it a second time around, and this time Miss Priss chose to sort them according to shape, using our geometric solids as a guide.

LM and Hoss chose to sort them according to name - as in, keeping like objects together. 
I was surprised that both times, they sort of chose the easier route. We also talked afterwards, all together, about a fifth way we could have classified them - soft and hard

Our second lesson, about a week later, was on Solids, Liquids, and Gases. We have talked about this many, many times, so I didn't have to initially show them what they were looking for. Instead, I set up three baskets, with labels of solid, liquid, and gas underneath them. I sent the kids searching for things that would fit in to those categories. 


(in the cup was actually several ice cubes - LM brought them in, just showing that she probably knows where these lessons are all going)



It was rather funny, as much as we have talked about the states of matter before, to see them trying to figure out how to fill the basket with gases. They were shocked when I told them it was actually *already full*. The older two, I believe, already figured this one out. 

This led to talking about the properties of each state of matter - in particular, that a solid will always hold it's shape, a liquid will mold in to whatever the solid shape of it's container is, and a gas has no definite shape. We used a few different things - a drinking cup, plate, medicine dropper, and ice cube tray, to show the liquid changing it's shape. I didn't get pictures of those, however - my hands were a little busy.

That is where we are so far, and I think that from what I have read of the lessons to come, the kids are really going to enjoy them.
I personally am enjoying the book, and the simple, cost-friendly, yet effective way the lessons isolate the individual concepts so that mastery of something can happen before moving on. For example, the states of matter lesson actually comes in two parts - the first one what we have already done, and the next showing the transformation of states from a solid, to a liquid, and then to a gas (melting water). It also has the underlying effect of leaving room for the child to question concepts further if they want to, but still understanding what is being taught even if they don't. 


  1. It is wonderful that you found a resource that works for you all!

    1. Thank you! We have tried several things before, unit studies, etc. I am usually not great at following a set guideline of lessons, but so far this is going well :)


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