Chemistry in the Montessori Lower Elementary Classroom

April 01, 2016
namc montessori lower elementary chemistry children with microscope
The aim of the children who persevere in their work with an object is certainly not to “learn”; they are drawn to it by the needs of their inner life, which must be recognized and developed by its means.
—Maria Montessori
Spontaneous Activity in Education, p. 220.

The hands-on Montessori chemistry activities always spark my students’ curiosity and excitement about the microscopic world of atoms and molecules.
They are fascinated with the idea of miniscule parts and how they combine to form molecules with different properties, distinct from their properties as individual atoms. While completing the NAMC activities on the parts of the atom, learning about molecules, and investigating the periodic table, students always show great interest and enthusiasm as they create models of atoms and water molecules.

namc montessori lower elementary chemistry boy with molecule model

Chemistry Ideas for the Montessori Lower Elementary Classroom

To build on their enthusiasm for this topic, I set out activities for those interested to continue their explorations. One activity I present to them is a tray with different colored modelling dough, toothpicks, and cards suggesting various compounds. The cards include the compound name and the formula. The students build the molecule by creating different colored ‘atoms’ from the modelling dough and ‘bonding’ them together with the toothpicks. To check their work, students can look on the back side of the card, which shows a hand-drawn picture of the compound. When students want to further their study, I invite them to look for compounds in their environment. They can then research the molecular formulas and structures of these compounds and build them using the modelling dough.

I also invite the students to work with my 3D molecular model chemistry set to build compounds. The set outlines what color each atom is and has plastic pieces that act as the bonds for joining the atoms together. I explain to the students that this is the set I used while studying chemistry at university, which seems to create an added atmosphere of awe and excitement.

namc montessori lower elementary chemistry happy students sitting on wall

As Montessori teachers, we nurture the natural curiosity of our students. If they are drawn to specific concepts, we encourage them to explore further.

We support their passion and thirst for understanding by providing opportunities and preparing their environment accordingly. We cultivate their sense of awe and reverence for the world around them — including the microscopic world.
Julie — NAMC Graduate, Montessori Teacher
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