Biology in Elementary

We know when the child moves to the elementary classroom she is a different person. She has a different side of psychological characteristics operating so we must adapt our treatment of plants and animals.

This means it will not be enough for the child just to learn the names or the facts about plants and animals. She now wants to know the How and Why? What lies behind the characteristics and the behaviors of the plants and animals she is learning.  

Why is the plant drooping?  Perhaps it needs water!  

Why is the fish dead? Because...

What we also know about this child is that she has an imaginary mind that is aided by her reason. So in our treatment of plants and animals we have to appeal to that imagination and support our presentations with reasons for everything.  A mistake we don't want to make when working with this older child is to treat her as a primary child has been treated. If we do that we will bore the children and we will not meet their needs. So whenever we introduce an idea or a characteristic about plants and animals we always must give the function of the part (characteristic) because it is the function that explains the reason of the behavior of the plant or animal. Example: We know that leaves need light to make food. Since they need light they have a behavior of growing towards the light. We know that the roots have the task of collecting water that the leaves need to make the food. So the roots have the behavior of growing towards water. So from the children's experiences they see for themselves that the behavior of the plant or animals is related to the function that they perform in order to survive. 

Therefore we will use imagery and allegory in our presentations. They are delighted about stories of plants and animals. This means, that we do not teach them about plants and animals but we excite them about plants and animals through our storytelling approach. When we appeal to the children this way, they become curious about nature. They want to learn more about the fascinating aspect of life on earth. As they go through this process they develop a sense of wonder about all the wonderful ways life has created for their life and to meet their needs. Through these discoveries they become aware of that there’s diversity of life on earth. These great diversities on earth become an imperative for more discovery.

What we have from our approach is that to introduce the children to the world of nature through a storytelling technique. We inspire them to go out and explore what we talked about. We presented and though their own observation allowing them to discover many diversities of life that have developed. 

They become aware that all plants have the same needs but they meet these needs in different ways. That results in the diversities of life. Because we have inspired the children they are making more and more discoveries. Consequently they are building this storehouse of information. This is information they’re going to classify and organize just like when they were younger.  It's a satisfying method to the children because it allows them to order their knowledge and minds and by doing that they are meeting that natural tendency towards order. 

We give the children opportunities in the elementary classroom, to consciously classify different characteristics of plants and animals. First we do it through simple classification. Simple classification is where the children gather specimens that they will classify according to a pair of characteristics. This prepares them eventually for scientific classification.  How this works is that the children can take one specimen and know all of the physical characteristics that will put it in one group as opposed to another group that requires different characteristics.  

For example: This animal protects its body with feathers and his forelimbs are modified for flying. So we classify it in a group we call birds. This animal that protects his body with fur and walks about on four limbs we classify in a group called mammals. As the children participate in classification work they’re organizing the information they garnered. They are clarifying what they know and building their intellect. 

We allow the child to go out to experience nature because we’re helping her to develop her ability to observe carefully. When the children are fascinated by certain characteristics or behaviors of plants and animals, they want to find out more. They find out more by looking very carefully at the world around them. 

If they have a reptile in the classroom, and they notice that the reptile’s behavior has changed or perhaps been not as active as usual, they want to know why. Is it because it’s too cold? Or because he’s molting? The child is looking watching and observing. Through this process her powers of observation become acute. Then she can use this ability in relation to her whole life, not only to plants and animals. 

We know that the human being has a natural tendency to explore. Teachers provide opportunities for the children to explore not just the world inside the classroom, but also the world outside the classroom. Offering the cosmic education, we ensure that we have a method by which they can go out and explore. This is the going out program. 


Another human potential is having responsibility. Children learn responsibility by being able to take care of plants and animals. They also learn to be responsible when they go out, because they have to conduct themselves in a civilized manner. They have to be responsible to the choices they make around the classroom. Therefore,  responsibility plays an important role in the child’s development. It will be a feature or potential that they will use in relation to nature. They will discover that there is a delicate balance on earth between life and earth itself. 

This delicate balance must be protected and maintained. So biology is not treated just as a method of learning about plants and animals; it has a bigger role to play. We hope that our children come to understanding and love towards the plants and animals on the earth to the extent that they do what they have to do to maintain this delicate balance.  

They’re going to understand through work that every organism has a cosmic task, and whatever that task is, is important in the maintenance of that place in life. This means that they will never want to destroy but rather protect the earth.  It means they will want to become more aware of the impact that humans beings are having on life, and they will help to protect it when that impact is detrimental. When the children are confronted with decisions, we want to think they will make a responsible choice due to the exposure we have given them, which will be thoughtful and caring. 

Ruchira Fernando