The interest in nature is a natural thing in every human being since the beginning of time. Language can be used as a pathway to the science of biology. Children have a great, natural interest in living things and biology is the study of living organisms, plants and animals. This is an area in which it is a pure joy in following the child’s natural interest. The child is naturally fascinated by “real and living things”.
There are two major areas of biology. The first is zoology, which is the scientific study of animals, their structure, physiology, classification, and distribution. The second is botany, which is the study of the classification of plants, their physiology, their structure, their ecology, distribution and economic importance.
In the Elementary class, the children will delve more deeply into these different groups and sub-groups of biology but for the Montessori Primary class, the child is only taught biology as in introduction and to have the awareness of the living organisms in our world.
The young child is taught the structure of plants and the distribution on a geographic level. The child always deals with the real object first, before moving to cards or to the abstract thing. Therefore, the directress should bring in as many different living things as possible. This allows for “real things” to be explored. A garden should ideally be part of every classroom. If not, the directress must make a special effort to bring in as much of nature as possible into the classroom.
All of these experiences are given on the oral level first. The information gained can be greatly enriched once the child is at the reading level.
Biology is a learning process for the directress as well. She will be guided each year by the child’s interests and must create material to follow these interests.
In Practical Life food preparation, flower arrangements, seed sowing, watering plants in the environment, cleaning the leaves, outdoor sweeping, and making compost from uneaten fruits and vegetables are all part botany lessons. You may also want to have a Nature Table where children can bring in things from the environment to share with the class.
In the Sensorial Work, the Leaf cabinet, and Progressive Exercises both relate to botany. The Progressive Exercises should contain elements from the child’s home such as nuts and fruits. The smelling bottles should also contain smells from the child’s home environment.
In the Language work, show the child a real weed before beginning the Nomenclature Cards to give the child a real example of the images on the cards. Classified cards are a wonderful area in which to bring in read examples. For the names of different flowers, bring in real examples of the flowers to have the child experience. You can do this orally with the younger children and with the use of labels for the older children. It is wonderful to have books and stories that refer to nature, particularly in relation to the present season. Once the child can read and write, he has unlimited access to the books and written information you can provide.
Songs are another great idea to do with children of all ages.
For Art, making collages with flowers and leaves is a nice way to incorporate botany into a lesson.
The major divisions in zoology are: vertebrates and invertebrates. The five groups of vertebrates are: amphibians, mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles.
Begin with real things. For example, if a child brings in an insect, place it in a “bug observer” (a large magnifier) and have the children observe it. It is very important to never pass on your own personal fears or phobias, so be aware of your own reactions to things!
In Language, classified cards are also a good way to teach different animals first orally, then with the labels. You can then separate them into vertebrates and invertebrates. You can have them feel their own vertebrates and think of any pets and if they have vertebrates. As in everything around science, follow the child’s interests. Nomenclature cards are a good way of teaching the parts of an animal. If possible, begin the lesson by showing them a real frog. This not only aids them in their understanding of the frog but it also sparks their interest in learning.