Westtown Lower School has an inquiry-centered science program based on hands-on collaborative learning that enables young children to learn about the essence of science by asking questions and exploring to find the answers. This approach captures children’s curiosity, stimulates their interest, and teaches them important science concepts, along with the critical thinking skills involved in scientific problem-solving.
Farm + Forest Program
The Farm + Forest Program is an outdoor, place-based science program at Westtown for students in Pre-K, Kindergarten, and 1st grade. Envisioned and created by Chris Henwood-Costa, Director of Outdoor Education, and Tim Mountz, Sustainable Agriculture Teacher, the program, which utilizes our 600-acre campus, is designed to help students develop a connection to, and relationship with, the natural world. This is accomplished through hands-on experiential education and the development of careful observation skills and increased sensory awareness. Our young naturalists are invited to explore, discover, question, and to go off the trail and into the creeks! Through these direct experiences of nature, students cultivate curiosity, connection, and a desire to know more. The combination of direct experience, strong observational skills, genuine curiosity, and problem-solving serve as the foundation for future scientific discovery.
The intermediate science curriculum utilizes the Next Generation Science Standards. Students from grades 2nd to 5th grades cover all scientific curricular areas over their years including chemistry, physics, biology, and more. Overall, the intermediate science curriculum is designed to be hands-on and uses inquiry as the basis for learning and connecting with science.
In 2nd grade, students transition from Farm + Forest to a more structured scientific experience. Farm to Forest teacher, Farmer Tim, still comes to teach with Teacher Amanda Jeane, as a way of bridging the gap between pure exploration to exploring with the purpose of inquiry and data collection. The second grade curriculum focuses on connecting our explorations around campus with scientific content and procedures inside.
3rd grade students’ curriculum emphasizes exploring scientific phenomena to find answers to big questions. Students are invited to use their hands, work in groups, and experiment in many of our science units. One example is the magnetism and electricity unit where students are challenged to make a light bulb light up with just a battery and wire. As the year progresses, more reading, writing, and data collection are introduced to help progress third grade students into the fourth grade curriculum.
The 4th and 5th grade science curricula challenge students to make connections across a wider range of concepts and content. The goal is for our older students to see how all things are connected and begin to connect the dots between scientific phenomena and the natural and manmade world. These grades complete longer, more integrated units of instruction that involve more group work, projects, and summative creations to showcase learning and share with the community.