Why is science so important for young children?
Science is not just a set of facts, it is a process – a way of thinking and understanding the world and what’s around us.
It is observing, predicting what might happen, testing those predictions, and making sense of observations.
As children are exploring the scientific process, parents and teachers can pose open-ended questions that may spark more questions or a new direction to explore.
Allowing and encouraging young children to explore the scientific process will promote the development of thinking skills such as organizing and classifying, problem solving, reasoning, and logic.
Here are some great ways to explore the science with young children in a fun and effective way.
Grow a Garden
There are many ways to grow a garden no matter where you are located. Here are a few ideas to give children hands-on experiences and opportunities to use the scientific method. To begin, find either a garden plot or provide containers such as:
Half a wood barrel
Single pots, terra cotta or plastic
Children can observe the growing cycle from seeds, to plant, to flower, and to seeds again. They can also observe plant parts and explore the similarities and differences between plants such as colours, shapes, relative size, and textures. Children can also observe the effects of environmental elements such water, light, temperature, and much more.
Teachers should ask children open-ended questions that do not require a single right answer to promote guessing and prediction. Encourage children to guess which plants will come up first and which will grow to be the tallest.
Promote child-driven investigations based on the children’s own questions by providing various materials—seeds, soils, pots, lighting, and water situations, etc.—to be used in their own experiments. Teachers can record children’s observations and questions generated by their experiments. They can also provide paper, journals, pencils, and crayons for the children to record their own observations as their experiments progress. Encourage children to use drawings and inventive spelling.
Children learn best from their own interpretations rather than from their teachers telling them what the facts are. Therefore, teachers should continue to promote open-ended questions encouraging children to process and draw conclusions about what they have seen in their experiments. This process will lead to more questions and to further experiments.
There are many other science activities that foster the development of the basic understanding of science concepts. Here are a few to get you started:
Put up a bird feeder.
Make a classroom aquarium or terrarium, or have a class animal, reptile, or bird.
Study ants, tadpoles, or butterflies
Cook together to explore measurement and cause and effect.
Explore water play: what floats, what doesn’t.
Explore the five senses (touch—texture, tastes—sweet/sour, sounds—high/low tones, volume, etc., smells—identify onion, orange, banana, etc., and sight—notice visual differences)
When children learn by doing and experimenting they retain what they learn in a uniquely accessible way. Scientific exploration promotes the development of problem solving skills, recognition of cause and effect, and organizing and classifying. These explorations lay the foundation for future understanding of more complex science concepts later. The ability to solve everyday problems through trial and error is essential for science and self-confidence. So go ahead, have fun, get your hands dirty, and inspire a young child to explore, question, and investigate. Empowering a young child to be a generator of knowledge is a special gift that will help lay the foundation for a life-long love of learning.