If you are a homeschooling mom that wants to set up a science shelf to support your thematic science studies or you just want to create an area in your home for your little science and nature fan to explore , then a science shelf or table is a great way to go. I have seen simple ones set up in day cares, and as an example for Charlotte Mason and Montessori setups, and I really loved the idea. I very much believe in child led learning ( although we do use a formal curriculum), so I am all for encouraging their interests. My kids love science and nature so it was imperative that I set up an area for them to develop this interest. Am I an expert? No, just a mom who is sharing what has worked out for us. This is my idea for what makes for a great science shelf/table.
Creating a DIY Science Shelf
First of all I try to keep the majority of the items on our shelf natural, i.e. not plastic, unnaturally colored items. However sometimes I need a filler or I am not able to get items that go along with our theme. For example, other than sand and shells, I can't really put the actual ocean on our shelf, so I will use toys, manipulatives, and other items. The “theme” for our science shelf changes based on our interests or studies at the time. The majority of the items on our shelf have to do with what we are studying- currently it is butterflies. If science isn't our main course of study, it becomes a hodgepodge of other nature items that have inevitably found their way inside in pockets or backpacks, like acorns, pine cones, sticks, pieces of shed snake skin, empty wasp nests, and sea shells. If I have something delicate that I want them to be able to look at but keep intact, I use a cleaned out plastic peanut butter jar to display it, like this empty chrysalis.
What do I keep on my science shelf?
I try to keep something living on the top shelf at all times. It is currently housing our butterfly habitat, where we have hatched and released over a dozen monarchs so far. It has been a short term home to crickets, beetles, worms, and other creatures. We have also had hermit crabs, fish, and an ant farm for awhile. I love giving them the chance to observe nature close up.
Books from our own collection, or borrowed from the library have a spot on the shelf. We look at them together and they are also available for the kids to look at anytime. Some of our favorite books to put out are Let's Read and Find Out books and Take Along Guides. They cover a wide variety of topics and are easy for my 3 and 6 year old to grasp, but still teach new facts and encourage thinking and exploring. Since I have a little one, our science library might also include storybooks like The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Planting a Rainbow if we are studying gardening, seeds, or flowers.
Journals and Writing Utensils
I like to use any chance I can to encourage my kids to practice writing, using blank journals or our homemade nature journals here. Usually I have them do free writing, but sometimes I will give them a specific task, such as writing words, sketching something on our shelf or that we saw outside, etc.
Stamps and Ink
I have a pretty extensive collection of scrapbook supplies, so if I have one that matches our theme, I toss it on the shelf. They are great for art, or I can use them to teach patterning using our theme.
Actual photos or Montessori Nomenclature cards give them something to look at and compare with. If you don't have your own pictures, a quick search on Pinterest will give you anything you are looking for.
Tweezers or tongs, magnifying glasses, binoculars, bug catchers, and anything else that might help with study and observation . Some items are intended to be used at the shelf to observe items, and others are ready to grab for trips outdoors .
Finally, I keep a small tub on the shelf with small related items in it. This one contains bugs, a butterfly Toob, and flowers. We use these for small world play, sensory bins, as counters for math, moving pieces for games, and more. Again this is something I add if I have it.
Do you have a science shelf? What do you keep on yours?