A young child starting preschool brings a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world. Whether watching snails in an aquarium, blowing bubbles, using a flashlight to make shadows or experimenting with objects to see what sinks or floats, the child is engaged in finding out how the world works. While a child’s focus is on finding out how things in their environment work, their family and teachers may have somewhat different goals. Research journals, education magazines, and the popular press are filled with reports about the importance of young children’s development of language and literacy skills. Children’s natural interests in science can be the foundation for developing these skills.
Do you know of a child who is not completely full of questions? As educators and parents, it’s easy to tune out the barrage of inquiries—but wait—could we be missing valuable teaching moments full of motivated learners? The resounding answer is, YES! What may be a never-ending supply of trivial questions may, in fact, be a complex science investigation. “Teachers can stimulate curiosity by asking questions themselves and by responding with warmth and enthusiasm to children’s inquiries.” Teachers who work with young children have that unique opportunity to facilitate powerful learning experiences and inspire deeper investigations that will validate and empower children to learn. Hands-on science activities and investigations are essential components of any early childhood setting, and they help lay the foundation for life-long learning and healthy development./
HOW THE CHILD’S BRAIN WORKS
Children are naturally equipped to learn through observation and investigations. Every experience, every word, every toy deeply impacts her understanding of their world and the connections they make. Every time a child learns something new, the brain rewires itself based on the child’s understanding. Every time the child repeats a task or a skill that particular neural pathway is reinforced and strengthened. “Learning changes the brain because it can rewire itself with each new stimulation, experience, and behavior” (Jensen). Providing varied and multiple opportunities for a child to use what they have just learned are important ways to help build efficient connections in the brain. It may be as simple as providing blocks to drop and knock over once you’ve noticed that the child is dropping a cup from the highchair. The more a neural pathway in a child’s brain is used, the stronger it becomes; conversely, if it is not used, the pathway can be lost.
*Note: Developmentally, young children learn and understand best from what they can see, touch, feel, and manipulate.
Note: “Children acquire scientific knowledge by ‘construction’ not by instruction!
Part 2 will emphasis “WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO INTRODUCE EARLY LEARNERS TO SCIENCE?”