Montessori type learning centers focus on hands-on child-led mastery learning, individual work stations and play as work activities. Activities in learning centers aim for mastery learning through exploration and task completion. Montessori science learning centers are also called sensory or sensorial learning areas. Here’s a system for portable exploratory science tubs with task-oriented science experiments and activities for mastery learning.
Montessori learning centers are organized, precise and minimal. Instead of a jumble of toys, there are specific ordered learning materials with task-oriented goals. Children work in individual work stations instead of desks or tables. These are usually portable mats rolled out on the floor. Portable unit-based science tubs work well. Materials in science tubs may be preset on stationary learning mats and children rotate through learning centers to complete activities. Or children may select science tubs, bring them to their mat work stations where they interact with materials to accomplish educational tasks.
To create exploratory science tubs, you’ll need small plastic boxes with lids, baskets and different science unit materials. Stacking boxes or drawers in a rolling cart work well too. You might also use zippered plastic bags for individual science units. You will arrange materials by content area. When you’re studying a particular content area, you’ll remove materials from drawer or box and place in baskets. This makes learning materials more appealing and approachable.
Themes for exploratory science tubs include: magnets, matters, animal classification, mammals, reptiles, air, water, weather, measurement, polymers, plants, rocks and minerals, chemistry, seeds and seed carriers, feathers, electricity, atoms, food, bubbles, bugs, spiders, electronics. Place materials to explore in science tubs. Add several related follow up tasks for mastery learning–flashcards, worksheets, matching games. Children can do mastery learning tasks in science journals for follow up.
Make available tools for exploratory science: microscope, slides, magnifying glass, tweezers, magnifying box, telescope, gram balance scale, ruler, protractor, measuring tape. On the top surface of the plastic science tubs shelf, draw outlines of tools so children know where to place tools when finished. You could also make a pegboard for them to hang tools. Children perform exploratory science tasks and then return materials to original places so other children can use them.