“Why did that happen?”
“Why does it work that way?”
“What can I do to change that?”
“And what will happen if…?”
Young children ask these questions daily. Adults teach young children to teach themselves about science. Preschool science is about process rather than product. With adults and older children, teaching may be verbal. But it is not applied to young children of preschool age. To completely understand the definition of any word, children need to act physically on a concept in which that word was used. When children have tested a concept by exploration and manipulation, then it has a meaning for them.
Children do not have to be taught to explore, question, and manipulate; they are born with a powerful desire to be curious, to question and to do all. Their need to handle, manipulate, hypothesize, investigate and explore has been called many things by psychologists and educators who suggest that this drive sets the stage for future learning. Children derive satisfaction from manipulating and controlling materials and experiences outside their bodies. This drive leads to clarification and understanding.
When children explore the physical world, they add new knowledge to their accumulated store. That newly acquired knowledge becomes the foundation for developing new concepts.
By handing, manipulating, tasting, and feeling, children are able to integrate this information into pre-existing concepts. Thus, children expand and deepen their understanding about the world around them. They broaden their concepts of weight and mass as they float objects in a container of water. They better understand air pressure and movement when they drop feathers and watch them float on the ground. They gain insight concerning life processes as they care for animals and plants.
Science is taught in preschool not to train future scientists and engineers (although we may be doing this), but rather, to equip the child with basic survival skills in this modern, complex world.
In this age of dwindling resources, we must emphasize conservation rather than disposal. If we are to teach conservation, we must help children understand scientific principles. It is only through understanding the physical properties of air, water, soil, weather and other natural phenomena that future leaders can solve the ever-mounting problems facing the world.
At present, teachers in kindergarten as well as parents of young children, feel pressure to do well in literacy and match. Science is often approached on a haphazard basis rather than time of fun and discovery for both adult and child.
Materials for teaching
Teaching materials for preschool science are easily acquired. They are all around. Common, ordinary materials are abundant. For example, the container of milk served at lunch. Where does the milk come from? This question may lead to a unit on cows, farm animals, animal babies, animal products, or domestication of animals. All this from one question! And this does not even consider the question of how the milk gets to the school, what happens to it before it arrives, how it is made safe to drink, what is added to it, or who buys it. Not to mention why it has to be made safe, why we drink it, which other animals give milk, that humans are mammals give milk. And still we haven’t looked at nutrition, the container itself, the print on the container, storage of milk and many, many other concepts.
Young children do not learn from things that do not interest them; they simply brush them aside. They are interested in materials and objects that attract them and capture their attention. Young children carry things in their pockets that are of no value to anyone else: a colored rock, a marble, sea glass, bent nails, pieces of plants, and perhaps (wonder of wonders) a snake skin or mashed, dried frog. Teachers should be quick to capitalize on the natural curiosity of young children by providing a discovery or science table where a child may bring treasures to show off to the class (properly labeled with his or her name) and show interest in their discoveries. It is a joy to watch a child hard at work looking through seed catalogs and books containing pictures of common plants of the region, trying to find the picture of a plant brought in.
No “special” equipment or supplies are needed for an effective science program. Let the children supply the majority of the materials needed for the program. At times it will be necessary to ask the children to bring in special things for an activity. However, these items are seldom expensive and most parents are eager to supply things. So let’s gear for making science a fun in preschools.
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Science in Preschools