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ProSolutionsCEUs Subscribe todaytoour bi­weeklynewsletter! Hands­OnScienceforYoungChildren ByTanyaEggers
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Hands­OnScienceforYoungChildren ByTanyaEggers Doyouknowachildwhoisnotcompletelyfullofquestions?As

Hands­OnScienceforYoungChildren

ByTanyaEggers

Doyouknowachildwhoisnotcompletelyfullofquestions?As educatorsandparents,it’seasytotuneoutthebarrageofinquiries— butwait—couldwebemissingvaluableteachingmomentsfullof motivatedlearners?Theresoundingansweris,YES!Whatmaybea never­endingsupplyoftrivialquestionsmay,infact,beacomplex scienceinvestigation.“Teacherscanstimulatecuriositybyasking questionsthemselves,andbyrespondingwithwarmthand

enthusiasmtochildren’sinquiries”(Trawick­Smith,p.205).Those

whoworkwithyoungchildrenhavetheuniqueopportunitytofacilitate

powerfullearningexperiencesandinspiredeeperinvestigationsthat

willvalidateandempowerchildrentolearn.Hands­onscience

activitiesandinvestigationsareessentialcomponentsofanyearly

childhoodsetting,andtheyhelplaythefoundationforlife­long

learningandhealthydevelopment.

Research Beforeeducatorscanembarkondesigninganeffectivehands­on scienceprogramforyoungchildren,it’simportanttoknowabitabout howachild’sbrainworks.Thebrainisapattern­seekingmachine, andscienceisthequesttorecognizeandclassifynaturallyoccurring patterns.Jensen,authorofTeachingwiththeBraininMind,says, “Usingthepattern­detectingandpattern­makingareasofthebrainis

criticaltoproperdevelopment”(p.96).

Childrenarenaturallyequippedtolearnthroughobservationand investigations.Everyexperience,everyword,everytoydeeply impactsherunderstandingofherworldandtheconnectionsshe makes.Everytimeachildlearnssomethingnew,thebrainrewires itselfbasedonthechild’sunderstanding.Everytimethechildrepeats ataskoraskillthatparticularneuralpathwayisreinforcedand strengthened.“Learningchangesthebrainbecauseitcanrewireitself

witheachnewstimulation,experience,andbehavior”(Jensen,p.13).

Providingvariedandmultipleopportunitiesforachildtousewhatshe

hasjustlearnedareimportantwaystohelpbuildefficientconnections

inthebrain.Itmaybeassimpleasprovidingblockstodropand

knockoveronceyou’venoticedthatthechildisdroppingacupfrom

thehighchair.Themoreaneuralpathwayinachild’sbrainisused,

thestrongeritbecomes;conversely,ifitisnotused,thepathwaycan

belost.

Inearlychildhooditisequallyimportantthatscienceactivitiesbe

hands­on,child­driven,authentic,andactive.Developmentally,young

childrenlearnandunderstandbestfromwhattheycansee,touch,

feel,andmanipulate.Providingsafe,readilyavailablematerialsthat

childrencanexperimentwithisoneofthemostimportantsteps

towardseffectivehands­onscienceinvestigations.

Effectiveeducatorsuseachild’sownnaturalcuriosityandquestions

tofuelscienceinvestigations.Anotherwaytoexplorescience

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EarlychildhoodNEWS­ArticleReadingCenter

conceptsiswithinformationalbooksandstoriesinfusedwithscience

conceptslikeweather,water,animals,etc.Scienceactivitiesand

investigationsarealsoagreatwaytobuildoralvocabulary,develop

readingreadiness,andfuelliteracydevelopment.

BasicScienceConceptsandApplication Scienceisnotjustasetoffactsthathavealreadybeendiscovered byothers;itisaprocess–awayofthinkingandunderstandingthe world.Itisobserving,predictingwhatmighthappen,testingthose predictions,andmakingsenseofobservations.“Childrenacquire scientificknowledgeby‘construction’notbyinstruction(Kamii&Lee­

Katz,1983).Theymustcreateanexplanationofobserved

phenomenaortheoutcomesoftheexperimentsinternally—an

explanationthatholdspersonalmeaning”(Trawick­Smith,p.203).As

childrenareexploringthescientificprocess,teacherscanposeopen­ endedquestionsthatmaysparkmorequestionsoranewdirectionto explore.“Goodqualityeducationencouragestheexplorationof alternativethinking,multipleanswers,andcreativeinsights”(Jensen,

p.16).Allowingandencouragingyoungchildrentoexplorethe

scientificprocess—ratherthanonlyusingdirectinstructionthat

emphasizessciencefactsandprescriptiveexperiments—willpromote

thedevelopmentofthinkingskillssuchasorganizingandclassifying,

problemsolving,reasoning,andlogic.Hereisonewaytoexplorethe

scientificmethodwithyoungchildreninafunandeffectiveway.

GrowaGarden

Therearemanydifferentwaystogrowagardennomatterwhereyou

arelocated.Hereareafewideastogivechildrenhands­on

experiencesandopportunitiestousethescientificmethod.Tobegin,

findeitheragardenplotorprovidecontainerssuchas:

Woodenboxfindeitheragardenplotorprovidecontainerssuchas: Halfawoodbarrel Plastictub Singlepots,terracottaorplastic

Halfawoodbarrelfindeitheragardenplotorprovidecontainerssuchas: Woodenbox Plastictub Singlepots,terracottaorplastic ScientificProcess

PlastictubWoodenbox Halfawoodbarrel Singlepots,terracottaorplastic ScientificProcess Observing

Singlepots,terracottaorplastic

ScientificProcess

Observing

Childrencanobservethegrowingcyclefromseeds,toplant,to

flower,andtoseedsagain.Theycanalsoobserveplantparts

andexplorethesimilaritiesanddifferencesbetweenplantssuch

ascolors,shapes,relativesize,andtextures.Childrencanalso

observetheeffectsofenvironmentalelementssuchwater,light,

temperature,andmuchmore.

Predicting

Teachersshouldaskchildrenopen­endedquestionsthatdonot

requireasinglerightanswertopromoteguessingandprediction.

Encouragechildrentoguesswhichplantswillcomeupfirstand

whichwillgrowtobethetallest.

Experimenting

Promotechild­driveninvestigationsbasedonthechildren’sown

questionsbyprovidingvariousmaterials—seeds,soils,pots,

lighting,andwatersituations,etc.—tobeusedintheirown

experiments.Teacherscanrecordchildren’sobservationsand

questionsgeneratedbytheirexperiments.Theycanalsoprovide

paper,journals,pencils,andcrayonsforthechildrentorecord

theirownobservationsastheirexperimentsprogress.Encourage

childrentousedrawingsandinventivespelling.

Interpreting

Childrenlearnbestfromtheirowninterpretationsratherthanfrom

theirteacherstellingthemwhatthefactsare.Therefore,teachers

shouldcontinuetopromoteopen­endedquestionsencouraging

childrentoprocessanddrawconclusionsaboutwhattheyhave

seenintheirexperiments.Thisprocesswillleadtomore

questionsandtofurtherexperiments.

Therearemanyotherscienceactivitiesthatfosterthedevelopment

ofthebasicunderstandingofscienceconcepts.Hereareafewtoget

youstarted:

2/4/2017

EarlychildhoodNEWS­ArticleReadingCenter

AdoptanearbypondPutupabirdfeeder. Makeaclassroomaquariumorterrarium,orhaveaclass animal,reptile,orbird. Studyants,tadpoles,orbutterflies

Putupabirdfeeder.Adoptanearbypond Makeaclassroomaquariumorterrarium,orhaveaclass animal,reptile,orbird. Studyants,tadpoles,orbutterflies

Makeaclassroomaquariumorterrarium,orhaveaclass

animal,reptile,orbird.

Studyants,tadpoles,orbutterflies

Cooktogethertoexploremeasurementandcauseandeffect.

Explorewaterplay:whatfloats,whatdoesn’t.

Explorethefivesenses(touch—texture,tastes—sweet/sour,

sounds—high/lowtones,volume,etc.,smells—identifyonion,

orange,banana,etc.,andsight—noticevisualdifferences)

Conclusion

Whenchildrenlearnbydoingandexperimentingtheyretainwhatthey

learninauniquelyaccessibleway.Scientificexplorationpromotes

thedevelopmentofproblemsolvingskills,recognitionofcauseand

effect,andorganizingandclassifying.Theseexplorationslaythe

foundationforfutureunderstandingofmorecomplexscience

conceptslater.Theabilitytosolveeverydayproblemsthroughtrial

anderrorisessentialforscienceandself­confidence.Sogoahead,

havefun,getyourhandsdirty,andinspireayoungchildtoexplore,

question,andinvestigate.Empoweringayoungchildtobea

generatorofknowledgeisaspecialgiftthatwillhelplaythe

foundationforalife­longloveoflearning.

ReferencesandResources

Bowden,M.(1989).Naturefortheveryyoung:Ahandbookofindoor

&outdooractivities.NewYork,NY:JohnWiley&Sons.

DepartmentofEducationbrochureforparents:

Jensen,E.(1998).Teachingwiththebraininmind.Alexandria,VA:

ASCD.

Ross,M.(1995).Sandboxscientist:Realscienceforlittlekids.

ChicagoReviewPress.

Trawick­Smith,J.(1994).Interactionsintheclassroom:Facilitating

playintheearlyyears.MacMillanPublishingCo.

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