TSR Connect

April 20,2018

relevant research

Discovery and Science in the Early Years

Why do we teach science?

“In a world filled with products of scientific inquiry, scientific literacy has become a necessity for everyone. Everyone needs to use scientific information to make choices that arise every day. Everyone needs to be able to engage intelligently in public discourse and debate about important issues that involve science and technology. And everyone deserves to share in the excitement and personal fulfillment that can come from understanding and learning about the natural world.”
—National Science Education Standards

Research tells us that science exploration helps children develop problem solving skills, large and small motor development, language and literacy skills, early mathematical understanding, and social skills though cooperation. A child’s “inborn sense of wonder” provides motivation for their play and learning, which teachers can use to their advantage. The teacher’s primary role as an early childhood science teacher is to provide plenty of time for children to play and explore, set up rich learning environments that promote exploration, and engage children in conversation that deepens their scientific vocabulary and understanding.

Early childhood teachers can promote an inquisitive attitude, passion for discovery, and sense of familiarity with scientific thinking by creating effective and developmentally appropriate learning environments. These learning environments need to support hands-on exploration and help children develop science skills such as measuring, comparing, and classifying.

When planning science lessons for young children, we want children to build a process of exploration that relates to problem solving experiences now as well as later in life. There are four basic steps that will help the teacher teach young learners about scientific discovery and how to examine problems logically. These steps are similar to those used in the scientific method, but they emphasize the skills that are most relevant to young children.

  • Observe
  • Communicate
  • Investigate
  • Experiment

Observe: Children should be given many opportunities to use their senses to gather information about objects or events. Children can observe and identify size, shape, color, texture, and sometimes taste.

Communicate: Children should have opportunities to communicate their discoveries. This can be done by telling, writing, or drawing about what they have observed.

Investigate: Children investigate when they make predictions, comparisons, and classifications of objects or ideas. An example would be to compare and contrast different types of leaves.

Experiment: At this stage children test predictions based on previous investigations. This is a process that involves more than a simple guess and requires prior knowledge, observation, and inference. For example, children could prop a piece of cardboard at an incline, gather items of various shapes and weight, place each item on the incline, and see which items will roll, not roll, or only roll from a certain starting position.

During each stage of the exploration process, teachers should engage children in back-and-forth conversation, scaffold children’s learning, and ask open-ended questions—all of these strategies help children build a deeper understanding of the scientific concept or skill.

By engaging in science as a process, and learning to communicate about science in developmentally appropriate ways, children build a foundation for future learning of scientific concepts. Scientific study during the preschool years lays a foundation for later success in school. And providing meaningful science learning experiences will make a lasting difference in expanding children’s knowledge, sense of inquiry, and learning in all domains.

teaching tips

Extend children’s experiences by:

  • Offering assistance as a child explores that enhances their learning, such as questioning and offering additional suggestions about their work
  • Enriching exploration through books, classroom visitors, technology, or field trips
  • Keeping records of what the child has done or said about the experiment
  • Using open-ended questioning strategies

Check out these science lessons in the CIRCLE Activity Collection on CLI Engage:

  • Day or Night (Earth and Space Science Skills)
  • Mystery Animal Game (Life Science Skills)
  • Rocks All Around Us (Earth and Space Science Skills)
  • Sink or Float (Physical Science Skills)

notable news

Reminders for TSR Comprehensive Participants

  • EOY Assessment: April 15-May 15
  • EOY Admin Meetings: April 16-May 31
  • EOY CEC: April 15-May 15

recommended resources

CLI Engage Website

Texas School Ready Website

Children's Learning Institute Website

Infant, Toddler, and Three-Year-Old Early Learning Guidelines

Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines

Texas Early Childhood Professional Development System (TECPDS)


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