Sixth Grade students stand together in a completely dark classroom. Suddenly, a beam of light is revealed across the room with the help of chalk dust tossed into the air, alerting the students to the presence of light that had been there the entire time. This magical experience, orchestrated by Science Teacher, Amy Stemkoski, introduces students to the scientific method of understanding a phenomenon through the senses.
During the appropriately titled “Blackout Experiment,” students not only experience the complete absence of light, but they also gain a deeper appreciation for it. For many students, this experiment is the first time they even considered how light works. By observing the beam as it reflects off of the dust particles, students are introduced to how light travels through space and what is required to see it. Learning science through direct experience helps students internalize the material, motivating them to investigate and look more critically at the world around them while developing an appreciation for the processes underlying everyday wonders.
While students study science every year, the Sixth Grade Physics Main Lesson Block is the first formal laboratory science block in the Waldorf curriculum. It introduces fundamental scientific study techniques, laboratory work including lab safety and equipment, and the basic properties of heat, sound, light, magnetism, and electricity. The block awakens students to these natural phenomena by presenting them in a systematic way so students learn to form their thinking and then to elaborate on their basic scientific knowledge and personal explanations to develop strong conclusions.
The block engages all of the senses and challenges students to ask “what” and “how” questions before asking “why.” This way, students arrive at accurate conclusions on their own as they realize that many everyday occurrences, like water being heated, involves complex scientific reactions. As the students continue to expand on their Chemistry, Physics, and Biology education in 7th and 8th grade their strong ability to observe, discover, research, explain, track, and analyze builds within them and this solid foundation of understanding will allow them to more fluidly grapple with increasingly complex scientific concepts as they progress into the high school.