by Tracy Walter
Science is both a body of knowledge that represents current understanding of natural systems and the process whereby that body of knowledge has been established and is continually extended, refined, and revised (Worth,2005). Because it’s important to understand that both elements (natural systems and the process) are essential it is important that we look at science in the early childhood classrooms.
The goal of science is to understand the natural world through a process known as scientific inquiry (Worth, 2005). Scientific knowledge helps us understand the world around us and help us solve problems. Science is much more than facts, principles, and theories; it also is a process of studying, observing, and figuring things out. Young children are naturally inquisitive, therefore, as educators we need to help nurture the natural inquisitiveness children have. We need to provide environments that lend to their observation, studying, discoveries, facts and figuring things out. Children will understand scientific inquiry naturally given the proper opportunities and environment and time.
Children are “naturally scientists” (Worth, 2005); their thinking is very sophisticated. Although they are very sophisticated thinkers, children need to be guided and given structure by teachers to build on their basic knowledge of the world around them. Teachers can provide a natural science rich environment in their classroom and use questioning techniques to help children explore further for a deeper understanding of a concept. The deeper exploration should include predicting, planning, collecting, and recording data, organizing experiences, and looking for patterns and relationships that may lead to further questioning.
In the early childhood classroom to allow for deeper science exploration and learning in children, the materials, time, and space is critical to scientific inquiry. The selection and access to materials is critical to children’s learning. The materials must be open ended and transparent (Worth, 2005). Materials should also be accessible that allow children to focus on the concept they are learning and exploring. The time needed for science exploration is important to consider as well. Science investigation takes place over time sometimes short term and sometimes long term. The children utilizing the materials will differ in the time needed for scientific discovery as well.
It is important to reflect on your classroom environment. Do you have the correct materials for the children actively engage in science inquiry? Are the materials accessible for children to use freely? Do you provide questions that allow children to think deeper and explore more and in a different way? Do you provide enough time for the children to explore science materials and the world around them? What changes if any do you need to or want to make to help nurture your little scientists in your classroom?