6 Concrete Elementary Science Activities Without a Textbook

Dr. Mary Hood is one of our favorite homeschool mentors.  We learned what it meant to learn how to learn by reading The Relaxed Home School years and years ago.

Personally, I’ve had too much experience with students who learn material, pass tests, and promptly forget everything to place my main focus on temporarily filling brain cells with irrelevant data. However, I do believe that children need to gradually build and expand their understanding of the world around them, and must be allowed to accomplish this in a way that will help them to remember the information they are gathering.

Dr. Mary Hood, The Relaxed Home School

She has a way of condensing what we normally think of as “education” into real learning — learning that inspires, satisfies curiosity, and develops into lifelong self-education.

Why is this important?  Because when it comes to science at the elementary level, we tend to try to condense the high school biology or physics or chemistry class into fodder for little brains.  Unfortunately this is typically a futile exercise — the opposite of real learning.

Science is the study of natural truth. It progresses by a logical sequence — experimental observations, to hypotheses, to quantitative analysis. It is not possible to study or apply most science reliably without first knowing the language in which it is written — mathematics — at least through introductory calculus. When students lack an adequate understanding of mathematics, yet try to study “science,” they are typically presented with oversimplified half-truths which later need to be unlearned.

Dr. Arthur Robinson, “Science Taken Seriously”

Of course, the question that then arises is — well, what do you do?  The answer?

It is my belief that the entire elementary science curriculum can be done without a textbook, based primarily in the out-of-doors, using the medium of art, coupled with close observation.

Dr. Mary Hood, “A Life in Nature”

Dr. Mary Hood offers six concrete elementary science activities that can be accomplished without a textbook.  In short, they consist of:

  • Making a leaf collection.
  • Examining a 6-foot by 6-foot plot of ground.
  • Visiting a variety of ecosystems.
  • Becoming a gardener.
  • Reading nature stories.
  • Reading, illustrating, and writing nature poetry.

She also includes other ideas such as keeping a nature collection, and identifying birds and other creatures — all ideas that will resonate with those familiar with Charlotte MasonRead the entire article for ideas on how to incorporate these features in your homeschool.

Sound too simple?

Remember that much of science in the early years consists of developing the ability to observe closely, record data, and analyze findings.

It is those skills we are building.  What an incredible foundation to give to a budding scientist!


Additional Resources

Skill Subjects vs. Content Subjects {The Key to Simplifying}Skill Subjects vs. Content Subjects
The difference between the two and what that has to do with self-education.

Other ways to “do” science through nature.

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