Jonathan Edwards, who by many is considered one of America’s foremost theologians, and who wrote great works such as The Religious Affections and Freedom of the Will, spent significant time studying spiders. Hunched over on hands and knees, he observed them, he took detailed, organized notes on them, and chiefly, he wondered at them. He specifically wondered at this: That God not only provides “for all the necessities, but also for the pleasures and recreation of species, even the insects.”
In other words, Edwards learned about the spider itself, yes, but learned too of God and of His creative and sustaining Hand in all things, both big and small.
At Whitefish Christian Academy, our approach to the sciences, especially in the elementary years, is not much different than that of Edwards. This year in grades K-4 the Academy has launched a Nature Studies program, in which students do these three things: Observe, Question, and Keep Record. They do those three things, says Mrs. Gildersleeve, “to wonder, in awe, at the world God has created.”
Socratic Questioning: Our teachers guide our students through their observations with poignant and guiding open-ended questions, so that students arrive at what’s essential about the species of study.
Record Keeping: Students keep record in their Nature Journals. By recreating that which they’ve learned in writing and drawing, students achieve a more lasting mastery in the specific area of study.
What are those specific areas of study? The topics covered in Nature Studies are grouped for fall, winter and spring as follows:
Fall: Insects, Trees, Fish
Winter: Birds, Mammals, Reptiles
Spring: Amphibians, Flowers, Gardening
In the study of those topics, Academy classes explore our location in the Flathead Valley with trips to Glacier National Park and Les Mason State Park, and partner with organizations like The Flathead Valley Beekeepers Association and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to learn directly from local experts. In all ways, Nature Studies (very much like our Horsemanship Program) serves as a means to celebrate and embrace our place here in Whitefish, Montana.
Most of all – and this is contained in that quote of Mrs. Gildersleeve – the program is designed to be a joyful one. That is because the study of the world around us should be a pleasing, eye-opening experience. Therefore, don’t be surprised if the Academy one day produces botanists, ornithologists, or even arachnologists. As Mrs. Charlotte Mason, a pioneer of classical, Christian education, once said,
“We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his own degree.”