To Use the Scientific Method is Natural

 One of my children began reading a Christian Liberty Nature Reader this week.  So far I highly recommend this for early readers. One of the difficulties with a Charlotte Mason education is the necessity of finding very good beginning readers.  Our children have been hearing such high quality books from such an early age, so early readers have the potential to bore them. Thankfully there are good readers available, and it turns out that this is one of the gems. An added bonus is that it has a nature study focus.

The first chapter told how a mother Mud Wasps set up each of her eggs in a walled in nest. She puts several spiders within the nest, so the baby will have food when it hatches.  In the book there is a little sketched picture of the nest that really isn’t very clear, but my daughter found the description very interesting.

The morning following this first reading, she and I ran an errand, and out of the blue she made this sound of awe and disbelief.  I had missed whatever she saw, and had to wait until she could gather herself to explain. She spoke with amazement in her voice. “I can’t believe it.  I just saw it. There was a Mud Wasp nest on the wall in that tunnel. Will you go back?” I wish you could have heard the awe in her tone. It was like it was a gift set out just for her.  Of course, I went back and there is was. Just like she said.  I’m not sure I would have known what I was looking at, after all, the sketch had not been all that clear, but she could tell.

Once we returned home she looked up images of Mud Wasps nest, and sure enough, that is exactly what it was.

Now comes the good part. Sure, that was a pretty good part, but this is the science-y-blog good part.  After making these observations, she began asking questions: How does that mother Mud Wasp catch those spiders without getting stuck in the web? Does she have some kind of oil on her feet so she doesn’t stick, or does she swoop in like a helicopter, but not actually land? How does she collect several spiders and wall them in without them getting away? There were holes in those nests – is that from the baby wasps getting out? Are they little when they are born?

That right there is what we call the formulation of a question. (Well, several questions!)

A little later she said, “She might sting them, the spiders.” And another child said, “To paralyze them maybe.”

And there’s a hypothesis!

I was so good, (if I do say so myself,) because I casually responded by saying, “That’s a good hypothesis.” It’s so great when we can slip in correct terminology. Unfortunately, it requires knowing the correct terminology, and it’s better to say nothing than say the wrong thing, but I think I pulled it off this time.

So far there has been no testing or analysis, but just give it time!

I’ve been thinking lately that we really do a lot more experimenting than we realize, and if we are naturally experimenting, we are likely naturally using the scientific method.

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