The Children’s School of Science encourages a love and appreciation of science through inquiry-based learning. Frequent field trips and hands-on classroom study provide the opportunity to explore nature, become adept at observation, and discover the rules that govern natural processes. Students benefit from the renowned scientific institutions in Woods Hole and the unique living classroom created by the complex biology and geology of Cape Cod.
The atmosphere of the school is informal, but serious. Direct observation of nature, a philosophy stated by the 19th century zoologist Louis Agassiz in his familiar motto, “Study nature, not books,” is as much in evidence today as it was when Frances C. Lillie (the founding president) and Dr. Morgan assembled a teaching staff for the Summer School Club. Teachers, then as now, are chosen for their scientific competence and teaching skills, and they are free to organize the details of the courses according to their particular skills and the interests of the students. As a result, the instruction is on a higher level than is usually possible for children of these ages.
The school’s curriculum includes some courses that remain continually popular, such as Seashore Life, Nature Photography, Entomology, and Marine Biology. From year to year, other courses are offered which take advantage of the special qualifications of the teachers, such as Oceanography, Biological Illustration, Embryology, Herpetology, Botany, and Marine Electronics, to mention only a few.
In general, the subjects of study arise from material collected on field trips to the varied habitats in the Woods Hole area. There are short, often daily, walking trips near the school, and one class period a week is usually devoted to a driving field trip. On returning from a field trip, students may set up, stock, and maintain aquaria and terraria with their collections. Films are developed in photography classes, and detailed observations of favorite invertebrates may be committed to paper.
Teachers are freed of many administrative details and can devote themselves to teaching. With few exceptions, there are no pre-requisites for any courses, nor are there any exams, homework, or credits. Children come to the school because they want to learn. The combination of these advantages provides teachers with opportunities to develop topics beyond the scope generally found in traditional classrooms. Teachers can avoid teaching that which the children find elsewhere, and they can concentrate on showing students how to explore and appreciate the special Cape Cod environment.
The school looks for teaching applicants with the highest academic qualifications. A Bachelor of Science or Arts in a scientific specialty is normally required. However, the school will consider applicants with alternative qualifications. Among the benefits accruing to teachers from a summer spent in Woods Hole is the proximity of the scientific community. Teachers are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity – to attend evening lectures and to meet with scientists working at the various scientific institutions located in Woods Hole. Synergies developed through these interactions contribute to the quality of the courses that are taught.