Blog Post inspired by my daughter Sophia’s statement:“Mama! I’m doing science!” and my teaching. Whenever I teach a topic to my ECE/ECA students I like to reflect: What does science mean to children and how can I best facilitate a discussion with my students about ‘doing’ science in early childhood settings?
Developmentally appropriate engagement with quality science learning experiences is vital to help children understand the world, collect and organize information, apply and test ideas, and develop positive attitudes toward science (Eshach & Fried, 2005).
Meaningful science activities, which are relevant to children’s daily lives, allow children to make connections between what they already know and what they are learning. Further, engagement in conversations promote children’s awareness of the learning and science concepts.
After preparing for “Science in Early Childhood Settings with Preschoolers” [my classroom topic for the ‘day’], I wondered “What would be the best way to teach students about science?– immediately I went to: The Scientific Process not sure if this was right or wrong, but for myself it definitely has stood out for a long time in my mind. However, what was it about the scientific process that made it meaningful to me? Could it be the questions we ask? the experimentation? One thing for sure I wanted to communicate to students was:
Young children, like scientists, need to practice the process skills of predicting, observing, classifying, hypothesizing, experimenting, and communicating. Like adult scientists, they need opportunities to reflect on their findings, how they reached them, and how the findings compare to their previous ideas and the ideas of others. [Now, what could I do in the classroom to reflect this in a practical way]
I find most of the time; children are naturally experiencing the world around them and developing theories about how the world works [WHY?]
The work of Worth and Grollman (2003), as been really influential in my classroom preparation: they have used a simple inquiry learning cycle to provide a guiding structure for teachers as they facilitate children’s investigations. The cycle begins with an extended period of engagement where children explore the selected phenomenon and materials, experiencing what they are and can do, wondering about them, raising questions, and sharing ideas. This is followed by a more guided stage as questions are identified that might be investigated further. Some of these may be the children’s questions, others may be introduced by the teacher, but their purpose is to begin the process of more focused and deeper explorations involving prediction, planning, collecting, and recording data; organizing experiences; and looking for patterns and relationships that eventually can be shared and from which new questions may emerge. This structure is not rigid, nor is it linear.
Reflection: What does the Scientific Process mean to me? (I decided to brainstorm see below)
Scientific inquiry provides the opportunity for children to develop a range of skills, either explicitly or implicitly. The following is one such list:
- Explore objects, materials, and events
- Raise questions
- Make careful observations
- Engage in simple investigations
- Describe (including shape, size, number), compare, sort, classify, and order
- Record observations using words, pictures, charts, and graphs
- Use a variety of simple tools to extend observations
- Identify patterns and relationships
- Develop tentative explanations and ideas
- Work collaboratively with others
- Share and discuss ideas and listen to new perspectives
Materials reflecting sensory, science and nature encourage children to explore through cause and effect experimentation and observation. Continual exposure to these materials and experiences allow children to learn more about their environments.
In the classroom students had the opportunity to uncover what “scientific thinking” meant to 1. themselves, 2. children and 3. within the context of childcare. My goal was to help students develop a framework for what the scientific process🔍 was meant for preschoolers and how teachers own scientific thinking impact children’s understanding. I picked three science activities most ECE/ECA’s have traditionally planned in childcare: 1. Mixing Colours, 2. Magnets, 3. Sink and Float, interestingly enough students soon discovered that –“scientific thinking is something we engage in everyday, [displayed as childhood curiosity, the popular question “why?”], and occurs naturally in all parts of the classroom as children engage with art, nature, sensory materials.
Students explore their science activities and drew many conclusions; one that I would like to focus on is:
“Thinking like a Scientist”
“Thinking like a Scientist”–Most student express anxiety about science topics, as well as having enough scientific knowledge or wonderment about how to include more science content in their teaching. One student shared: “I’m not really very good at science, I don’t really know much about science.”
Drawing from the response I felt it was even more important to uncover our own definition of scientific thinking: We collaboratively defined:– “scientific thinking is about the diverse ways we seek to understand the world and engage in “what if?”, “why?” investigations all these opportunities help us develop as educators scientifically— simply put you have to be as curious as a child and eager to find out answers.”
Eshach, H., & Fried M. N. (2005). Should science be taught in early childhood? Journal of Science Education and Technology, 14(3), 315-336.