As children grow, they are developing their own ideas and conclusions about their world around them. They are using their experiences to help them form ideas and conclusions. The conclusions that young children develop are not always accurate conclusions because they are developing their conclusions based upon their prior knowledge. Since younger children have less knowledge and experience in which build new knowledge, their conclusions are often misleading.
By introducing science at an early age, we will take advantage of their naturally curiosity to help them look at things in a new way. By looking at things in a new way, we are helping them to expand their existing knowledge and their understanding of the world around them.
What Make Early Childhood the Best Time to Intoduce Science?
“Why?” It is probably the most common word used among young children. Children are very inquisitive and they are just discovering how the world around them works. How many of you have seen a child turn the lights on just to turn them off again. Then on. Then off. They are not just playing with the lights. They are trying to discover why the lights turn on and off when you flip the switch.
Believe it or not, they are already involved in scientific thinking:
- ASKING QUESTIONS: They are asking questions about how the world around them works.
- OBSERVATION: They are observing what is happening.
- PREDICT: They make predictions about what they think will happen.
- CONCLUSION: They develop a conclusion using their current knowledge.
Children are already engaged in scientific thinking long before they enter the classroom. So in fact, we are not introducing science to them. We should take the opportunity to harness their curiosity and instill a sense of wonder and enthusiasm for science that will last a lifetime.
Science in the Elementary Classroom
For many years, science had been pushed aside for the more important subjects such as math and reading. But math and reading are no more or no less important than science. The reason science was viewed as a less important subject is because state mandated testing focused on primarily math and reading.
Due to accountability testing, schools were being weighed down by tests in math and reading. Schools were grading upon the scores that the students received from these tests. Teachers rating and sometimes pay was determined on how well the students at their school or in their class did on these test.
Most educators today are familiar with No Child Left Behind, Back to the Basics, and Accountability Testing. These are what guided our curriculum over past few years. They focused primarily on reading, writing, and math. There was no time for science.
Another reason science was viewed as less important that math and reading was the assumption that math and reading were essential skills needed before students could learn science. Science was viewed as a collection of facts that students learn through reading and worksheets.
In recent years, there is a new approach to the teaching of science. Science is being viewed, not as facts you learn, but instead as an active exploration of discovery and learning. More time is being devoted to building scientific thinking in young children. As this approach continues to gain popularity, we should start seeing a new focus on science in the classrooms.
Challenges Teachers have when it comes to teaching Science
There are many challenges that teachers have faced when it comes to teaching science.
- Science is not a priority.
- Main focus is on the Accountability Testing for math and reading
- Teachers are unprepared to teach science
- Science language is not familiar to teachers
- Most teachers have no scientific background
- Little or no professional development
- There is little time available in the day
- Resources to teach science are unavailable
- Lack of access to equipment
No matter what the challenge, we need to find a way to incorporate science into our everyday classroom. We need to add more hands-on science activities to help children build their critical thinking skills. We need to add more training for teachers in science so that they are well-prepared to teach our young scientist. We also need to make sure these teachers have the support and resources they need to effectively teach science
Planning for Science
When planning for science, we need to keep a few things in mind.
- Science needs to be hands-on.
- Science needs to be engaging.
- Science needs to be fun
Science needs to be hands-on. The first thing that we need to remember when planning for science is that kids need to be able to engage their senses. They need to see, feel, listen, smell and taste (when appropriate). By incorporating hands-on activities, you will be engaging multiple senses.
Science needs to be engaging. Children also learn best when they are actively engaged in their learning. When science activities are engaging, children will be asking questions (Why? How? What?). They will be having discussions with their teachers and their peers. And they will be answering their own questions.
And finally, science needs to be fun. Children learn best when they are having fun. If you teach science with highly engaging hands-on activities, children will have fun learning.
How do we go about choosing a highly engaging hands-on activity? First, you need to know your children. You need to know their interests. And you need to know their strengths and weaknesses.
- Encourage activities that are not too hard nor too easy.
- Look at the interest of the children
- Consider children’s ability level.
- Allow children to help select activities.
Ideas for Introducing Science into the Classroom
Check out the following resources to help you plan your science activities in the classroom.
One of my favorite people in Science education is Steve Spangler. He is know for his funny and engaging lesson on stage, television and YouTube. He is the leading science influencer in the world today. Check out his website at stevespanglerscience.com for easy science experiments, inexpensive science supplies, and educational toys. Great for the classroom or at home.