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Goals for Each Stage of Learning Science: Conference Handout

Susan Wise Bauer
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 Goals, Methods, Requirements


  • 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


  • 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 Goals, Methods, Requirements


  • 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


  • 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:
    • What question am I trying to answer?
    • What could the answer be?
    • How will I test this answer?
    • What result did I get?
    • Does this agree with the answer I thought I would get?  If not, what answer should I give instead?
  • Teach the 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 Goals, Methods, Requirements


  • 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


  • 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.

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Susan Wise Bauer

Susan Wise Bauer is an educator, writer, and historian. She is the co-author of The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (now in its fourth edition), and the author of (among others) The Well- Educated Mind, The Story of Western Science, the Story of the World series, the History of the World series, the elementary series Writing With Ease, and the pre-rhetoric series Writing With Skill. Susan was home educated through high school and has taught all four of her children at home. She has a B.A. and M.A. in English language and literature, an M.Div., and a Ph.D. in the history of American religion from the College of William and Mary in Virginia, where she taught writing and literature for over fifteen years.

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