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Spontaneous Science for Children Under 6

Science has enabled humans to reach great heights yet in the Montessori Curriculum, there is no Science Album. In my Casa training, I learned that science is not a separate subject but is incorporated into the rest of the Montessori Curriculum. This is because the human mind is Mathematical and science is a result of the Mathematical Mind at work: observing, creating order out of what is observed, seeing patterns/finding relationships. Maria Montessori borrowed the term Mathematical Mind from Blaise Pascal, a French physicist, philosopher and mathematician who said the “nature of the human mind is to be mathematical.” The Mathematical Mind operates, without awareness, in the First Plane of Development as the Absorbent Mind. The Mathematical Mind is active throughout all ages of a human’s life but it is dependent upon the knowledge and experience the child gains in their first few years of life. Click here to read more about the Mathematical Mind and how it pertains to Mathematics in the Montessori prepared environment.

In Montessori Theory, the Mathematical Mind describes the brain’s tendency to develop and function with exactness, with imagination and in an orderly fashion. Because the Mathematical Mind works within the Human Tendencies such as the ones just listed, the opportunities for scientific inquiry will come up naturally. It is the role of the educator to recognize the opportunity (if the child has not already done so) and draw the child’s attention to create awareness of a scientific situation. Adults can also encourage and model curiosity when they see an opportunity to do so. 

First Plane children (ages 0 – 6 years of age) are developing their Mathematical Mind and constructing their imagination from concrete experiences they have. We do not need to explain the world to the children, instead the guide provides children with the connection to the to the environment/materials. In this way, the guide creates an atmosphere that is more conducive to the child picking up on the science all around them.

Here is a list of examples broken down into areas of the Casa environment:

Practical Life
  • Washing the Leaves of a Plant: how leaves grow, textures of the leaves, color difference, leaf shape difference, that leaves grow, properties of water, cotton ball in water
  • Polishing Table: cause and effect, change in texture and look of the table
  • Pouring Activities: angle of pouring rate of pouring, what you are pouring, gravity
  • Walking on the Line: feel balance, carrying different weights, varying speeds
  • Washing Cloths: changes in temperature of water and effects on stain/soap, absorption quality of different cloths, chemistry with soap and water
  • Food Preparation: chemistry, logical sequencing change in form when heat is applied, effects of spoilage, density
  • Flower Arranging: displacement of water, surface tension, evaporation, capillary action, decaying
Sensorial Area
  • Variations and extensions give the child the opportunity of experimental investigation
  • The result of the Sensorial Area is refinement of Sensory Perception which is essential in Scientific Investigation and becomes preparation for conducting scientific experiments
  • Pairing and Grading Activities: do you always get the same results, use of variables in experiments through the isolation of individual qualities, experience with the Scientific Method
  • Vocabulary: have accurate language to describe and explain
  • Reading: child has access to other people’s discoveries
  • Writing: child can communicate their own discoveries
  • Nomenclature cards: demonstrate how information can be shared
  • Classification cards: break down whole into parts
  • Attaching language: the abstraction (the word) makes it possible to then explore in your own mind
  • All materials in the Math area show relationships and patterns
  • Control of error and exactness in design and answer

It wasn’t until my child reached the toddler age that I finally comprehended the concept of Spontaneous Science. Although I am not Nido/Toddler trained, I take my Casa training, especially the theory, and adapt activities and materials to my toddler’s developmental needs which I am aware of through observing him on a regular basis. At times, it is very apparent that his Mathematical Mind is engaged. In many cases, I just bring out a specific item and let him explore it, on his o

wn, in collaboration with me or a bit of both. Sometimes, I will look up ideas of things to do with an item to further extend the exploration or to indirectly target a specific scientific concept. As we play around with different items, I started developing a list of things that can be used to explore Science spontaneously with Toddlers:

  • Magnets: magnetic vs non magnetic, attraction, repelling
  • Balloons: static electricity, gravity, pressure, expansion, collapse
    • For added exploration, tie two balloons together
  • Water: wet/dry, float/sink, bubbles, water energy, density, states of matter, surface tension, displacement
  • Feathers: structure, flight, applying different force when blowing
  • Toy Vehicles: aerodynamics, transportation, displacement of earth, speed
  • Gardening: biology, zoology, ecology, Plant and Animal Classification, decaying
  • Liquids/household agents: density, chemical reactions, solutions, mixtures, suspensions,
  • Blocks: architecture, forces, cause and effect
  • Leaves: biology, changing color, photosynthesis, shade
  • Prisms: color, sunlight
  • Balls: Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion, aerodynamics

As children get older, we introduce them directly to scientific concepts, science experiments and famous scientists to invoke their imaginations and spark their curiosity. I hope that you now see how scientific experimentation is important, relevant and necessary at all ages of development though the way it is presented depends on where they are in their development.

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