Children are naturally born curious. Watch a baby and you can see from birth that they are exploring their world and trying to figure out how it works. Teachers always get nervous when they think that they are going to have to teach science. As Early Childhood Educators, we observe what a child is curious about and then find ways to draw them in whether from books or hands-on experiences. It does not matter if they get the correct answer to their problem as they learn from their errors and from learning how to access information from non-fiction books and computer searches. We teach the children the science skills they will need in the future. We do this by being role models of what a scientist looks like; we are not necessarily doing great experiments.
It is our responsibility to role model what science looks like. We must show the children how to use the various pieces of investigative tools that we have (magnifying glass, binoculars, scales,computers, and magnets). We model hypothesizing (I wonder what will happen if I), observation (I see that it has), problem-solving (It does not stick this way, I wonder if I tried it another way), classifying (all of these with round wheels role), critical thinking (being open to another way of doing something and being able to explain why you did what you did), and self-regulation (I think I can attitude and not giving up out of quick frustration). As an Educator, you probably do these things all day long in your classroom. That’s because science in the early years is just exploring everyday life.
Children in the preschool years need to be actively involved in exploring their world. We can help them by setting up an environment that encourages and excites children to want to learn more. Make sure that you are including large blocks of time in your routines so that children have time to experiment fully with materials. Ask open-ended questions about what they are doing and if they seem stuck, make a suggestion. Teach them the vocabulary that is needed to communicate science concepts with fun words like hibernation, melted, reinforce, balance, and alive-not alive but also words that describe like faster, sticky, and steeper.
When there is a conflict between children, count to 10 and see if they can resolve it on their own. Encourage them to find a solution that works for both parties. Do not push children to touch something that they are fearful about and DO NOT act afraid of things that cannot hurt you; such as worms and toads. Teach the children to respect living things and safety skills as some insects do bite or pinch when they feel threatened. Teach by using all your senses and introduce non-fiction books into your library. Early childhood science should be hands-on and fun.
- Non-fiction books
- Bird feeder
- Windsock or pinwheel
- Air pump and beach balls
- Old bones and teeth
- Shells, rocks, feather, collections
- Balance scale
- Magnifying lenses
- Things with wheels
- Ramp making materials
- Binoculars, kaleidoscope, fly eye
- Color paddles and prisms
- Plastic mirrors
- Aquarium for visiting insects or animal
- Sorting try
- Materials needed for cooking (if allowed)
- Pieces of animal skins or textured cloths
- Ice, sand, dirt, water in the sensory table
- Use the playground to teach levers (if you have a see-saw), pendulums (if you have swings), and ramps (if you have a slide).