Science in Early Childhood Classrooms
The need to focus on science in the early childhood classroom is based on several factors currently affecting the early childhood community. First and foremost is the growing understanding and recognition of the power of children’s early thinking and learning. Research and practice suggest that children have a much greater potential to learn than previously thought, and therefore early childhood settings should provide richer and more challenging environments for learning. In these environments, guided by skillful teachers, children’s experiences in the early years can have significant impact on their later learning. In addition, science may be a particularly important domain in early childhood, serving not only to build a basis for future scientific understanding but also to build important skills and attitudes for learning.
What Is Science?
Science is both a body of knowledge that represents current understanding of natural systems and the process whereby that body of knowledge has been established and is continually extended, refined, and revised. Both elements are essential: one cannot make progress in science without an understanding of both. Likewise, in learning science one must come to understand both the body of knowledge and the process by which this knowledge is established, extended, refined, and revised.
Before turning to a deeper discussion of science for the very young, it is helpful to describe the view of science. The goal of science is to understand the natural world through a process known as scientific inquiry. Scientific knowledge helps us explain the world around us, such as why water evaporates and plants grow locations, what causes disease, and how electricity works. Scientific knowledge can help us predict what might happen: a hurricane may hit the coast; the flu will be severe this winter. Scientific knowledge can also help solve problems such as unclean water or the spread of diseases. Science can guide technological development to serve our needs and interests, such as high-speed travel and talking on the telephone.
The Content of Science for Young Children
Children entering school already have substantial knowledge of the natural world, much of which is implicit…. Contrary to older views, young children are not concrete and simplistic thinkers…. Research shows that children’s thinking is surprisingly sophisticated…. Children can use a wide range of reasoning processes that form the underpinnings of scientific thinking, even though their experience is variable and they have much more to learn.
The content of science for young children is a sophisticated interplay among concepts, scientific reasoning, the nature of science, and doing science. It is not primarily a science of information. While facts are important, children need to begin to build an understanding of basic concepts and how they connect and apply to the world in which they live. And the thinking processes and skills of science are also important. Teachers when working with developing curriculum, have focused equally on science inquiry and the nature of science, and content—basic concepts and the topics through which they are explored. In the process of teaching and learning, these are inseparable.
Ms. Nora Sierra
EC Assistant Principal