Science in the Classical Curriculum

SCIENCE IN THE CLASSICAL CURRICULUM

Susan Wise Bauer

Copyright 2000 by the author.  Please do not reproduce.  This material is adapted in part from The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, which contains much more information on this topic.

Grammar-stage science:

What are your goals?
- Arouse enthusiasm and satisfy natural curiosity
- Accustom child to reading and writing as a method of discovery
-  Teach child how to observe carefully
(this isn’t natural as observation is – you use this also)
(don’t do lots of experiments: at this age, it is frustrating.
- Show science to be a coherent field of study with its own rules
(schools use the spiral approach, six weeks of this, six weeks of that, which is great for a skill but NOT for a content area!  Science is, slightly, on the border between the two.)
- Introduce child to the vocabulary of science

What is your method?
-  Study those aspects of science which the child finds naturally interesting
-  Read about each subject; write briefly
-  Focus on observation-centered study (NOT deduction-based study)
-  Use a science “spine” that concentrates the child’s attention on a single area
-  Find a program which uses, and explains, proper vocabulary

What do you require of the child?
- Concentration for 15 minutes to 45 minutes at a time
-  Reading of 1 paragraph to 2 pages on a scientific topic
- Writing of 1 sentence to two paragraphs in summary
-  Proper use and spelling of vocabulary

Logic-stage science

What are your goals?
- Teach the proper use of the scientific method
- Teach the limits and biases of the scientific method
-  Accustom child to proper record-keeping methods
-  Lead child into an understanding of the goals and limits of each scientific field
- Teach child to follow a logical progression of thought

What is your method?
- Focus on one field of study long enough to learn its procedures
- Use a curriculum that focuses on experimentation and deduction
-  Require proper record-keeping:
1.  What question am I trying to answer?
2.  What could the answer be?
3.  How will I test this answer?
4.  What result did I get?
5.  Does this agree with the answer I thought I would get?  If not, what
answer should I give instead?
- Teach child to question the basic assumptions of the text
- Use multiple sources
-  Look for logical fallacies and presuppositions.

What do you require of the child?
Require child to read more than one source
-  Ask child to outline material and look for logical fallacies

Rhetoric-stage science

What are your goals?
-Instill a technical knowledge of the scientific disciplines
-Help the student understand science as a “human endeavor”
-Put science into its historical and social context
-Use science as a way to discuss ideas

What is your method?
-Use a technically thorough, upper-level science text
-Pursue an outside course of “science reading” in chronological order
-Discuss the philosophical issues raised by each field of science
-Trace the development of technology through history
-Question the “facts.”   Always ask: why did this idea arise now?
What do you require of the child?
-Diligent mastery of the technical aspects of science
-Outside reading in the “great texts” of science
-Regular 2-4 page papers summarizing the lives and historical settings of
scientists
-Research projects tracing the development of particular ideas and technologies
-An attitude of healthy skepticism.

Go back to the Well Trained Mind Home page  or Workshops and Handouts page.

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