We are all natural born scientists. We carry out daily experiments in our ordinary lives; from tying our shoe lace to attempting a new level on a game, from trialling a new recipe to how we interact with those around us—these are everyday experiments. You are a part of science. You are constantly trying to solve problems and experimenting.
To have discovered a quarter of the answer to his own question is of more value to the child than to hear the whole answer, half-understood, from another.
Why is science important in the early years?
Our aim in early childhood is to encourage, support and promote critical thinking and inquiry. From the moment they are born, young age babies have a strong exploratory urge, engaging with the world using all their senses. Babies formulate theories, make and test predictions, seek explanations, do experiments and revise what they know in light of new evidence (Gopnick et al.,1999).
Think of the baby, sitting on the floor, propped up and surrounded by pillows. She sees two rattles lying on the floor and stretches for them. Holding them in her hand, she shakes them and sees another rattle nearby. She wants it but her hands are already full – what will she do? In this moment she is engaged in problem solving and hypothesising – what if I let go of one rattle? Children’s early experiences help form the attitudes, dispositions and skills to explore and investigate independently, and they draw on their growing body of knowledge to volunteer ideas, ask questions, pose challenges, solve problems and make discoveries, gradually building up their understanding of scientific learning.( Brunton and Thornton 2010)
When children have opportunities to explore and investigate their immediate environment they begin to develop some scientific characteristics, a curious disposition, critical thinking, a persistence in working through problems. The theme of Exploring and Thinking in Aistear is about children making sense of the things, places and people in their world by interacting with others, playing, investigating, questioning, and forming, testing and refining ideas. Much of this happens through play and other experiences that allow children to be creative, to take risks, and to make discoveries. As they learn, they retest their theories adjusting them to take on board new discoveries and new experiences.
How is science integrated across the curriculum?
Science is not located in any one corner or area of the pre-school setting. It belongs and can be seen everywhere, integrated across the curriculum. For example:
In the construction area a group of 3 children are building a bridge with the blocks. They work carefully in trying to balance the blocks one on top of the other. The adult asks – “What will happen if…..?”
In the art area David dips the brush into red paint and then into white – “Look!” he shouts, “It’s pink like my sister’s Barbie.” The adult takes the opportunity to encourage the child to question “How did the paint turn pink?”
- Playing in the small sand pit outside, Denise adds a handful of sand to a bucket of water and wonders “Where is the sand gone?” The adult offers a sieve and suggests “Maybe try this.”
Scientific exploration is cultivated through experiences that build on children’s current interest, and the skill of the practitioner lies in the ability to provoke thinking, to pose real and critical questions, to have a science rich environment and to introduce resources and ideas which will trigger, build on and expand children’s interests.
Supporting a child’s own understanding of scientific ideas, and promoting the skills that help them to develop these further are practices used by adults who see science as a shared way of making meaning and constructing and re-constructing the world. Engaging in these strategies will foster shared learning and enhance both the adults and children’s understandings.
Tips for Promoting Super Scientists In your Early Child Care and Education Service!
Young children, because of their innate curiosity eagerly embrace all types of scientific activities. The easiest way to incorporate science into an early childhood setting is to “find” the science in the activities you are already doing, for instance lesson about “me” can include making pasta skeletons with the children’s pictures as the head. Colour mixing, exploring which materials dissolve in water, comparing similarities and difference in objects and cooking are all science activities.
Set up a Science Centre.
This does not need to be expensive. Large and small magnifying glasses, microscope, prisms, balance scales, mirrors, magnets, colour paddles, and a variety of objects to observe and measure are a great way to start. Models and animal puppets are always a hit. Have a variety of books, puzzles, and writing materials. Change the materials on a regular basis to keep things interesting.
Make a start by focusing on what you know
If you like animals or plants, start there. Worms make great pets – they are easy to care for and you can observe their life cycle, checking regularly to note what is happening in the wormery.
Use your surroundings and the expertise of your parent’s, staff, and community
Ask your local pet shop for feathers and other animal items. Once the word gets out that you collect these things, people will save them for you. Ask the local vet/doctor in for a visit or visit your nearest museum/ zoo. Inform parents of your science explorations and invite them to share their skills/ expertise – one of them just may be scientist / engineer/ biologist….
Be a good observer and ask open ended questions to help extend their learning
If your students start to do something unusual with an item or use it in a non-standard way, step back and watch. He/she may be making a new discovery and just might teach you a thing or two.
Introduce new items and concepts to the group.
The children need to understand what things are for, and how to use and take care of them. Let them play. Children must have time to freely explore new things before participating in a structured activity.
Answer their questions honestly and if you don’t know an answer find out together!
Where would we find the answer that question? Empower children by encouraging them to find out and explore things for themselves. Model a positive attitude and enthusiasm for learning
The best way to promote science literacy is to expose your students to a variety of books, from preschool level to adult.
Just make sure the adult books have lots of pictures. You will need the information in the adult books to answer the children’s questions.
A few simple additions to your setting and curriculum will provide endless opportunities for creative thinking, problem solving, and exploration. You’re students will be on their way to becoming “Super Scientists.”