WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO INTRODUCE EARLY LEARNERS TO SCIENCE?
There are a variety of reasons; but one of the most important is that science provides a context for learning about our world.
Other reasons why early exposure to science is useful:
- It helps children develop valuable literacy skills – in addition to developing scientific, environmental and math-related literacy, science may prompt children who don’t enjoy reading fiction to read non-fiction, linking the scientific process of exploring and discovery with reading.
- Scientific inquiry and problem solving builds confidence. Learning to ask questions and solve problems is an essential life skill and vital for school learning.
Early exposure to the many facets of science may help cement future interest. “Many young people turn away from the world of science because they think it’s isolating and that science works by itself,” says Schmidt. “If you can help children understand that science is actually about teamwork, about exploring their world and about communicating that information to other people, the essence of science will be better understood [and more children may stick with it.”
So, don’t fear exploring the world of science with the preschooler. Together you can enjoy discovering answers to life’s puzzles – both big and small.
At an early age, all children have the capacity and a natural tendency to behave in a particular way to have the basic abilities to observe, explore, and discover the world around them (NRC 2012). We need as teachers to be encouraged and supported among children in the earliest years of their lives. The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) affirms that learning science and engineering practices in the early years can foster children’s curiosity and enjoyment in exploring the world around them and lay the foundation for a progression of science learning in K–12 settings and throughout their entire lives. We will focus primarily on children from age 3 through preschool. NSTA does recognize, however, the importance of exploratory play and other forms of active engagement for younger children from birth to age 3 as they come to explore and understand the world around them.
Current research indicates that young children have the capacity for constructing conceptual learning and the ability to use the practices of reasoning and inquiry (NRC 2007, 2012). We as teachers Many tend to underestimate children’s capacity to learn science core ideas and practices in the early years and fail to provide the opportunities and experiences for them to foster science skills and build conceptual understanding (NRC 2007, p. vii). Effective science investigations can deeply engage young children for extended periods of time, beyond a single activity or session.
Part 3 will discuss the key principles that will help guide the learning of science among young children