Children are naturally curious--they want to learn everything they can about the world around them. They do this by poking, pushing, sniffing, tasting, dropping, shaking, throwing, and touching everything in sight. Through this exploration, children are investigating how things work. Your little scientist is learning through play and establishing the foundation on which many important science concepts will be built upon.
Science can be thought of in many different ways. Some people view science as the memorizing fact and analyzing data and associate it with teacher focused instruction. On the contrary, science is best described as the process of discovery, the construction of our understanding of how things move, what they’re made of, and how everything is connected. These discoveries build our basis of understanding the natural world, and they begin at birth (Trundle, 2009).
When your child attends LEAP, they are exposed to a highly stimulating environment, one that encourages unstructured play and hands-on investigation. At the sensory bin, when your child pours water from one bucket to another, he explores the concepts of space, cause and effect and measurement. He learns…
- What happens when I tip the bucket that is filled with sand?
- Does a big bucket hold more water than a small bucket?
- How is using a bucket with holes different than one without holes?
- Which weighs more- a bucket of rocks or a bucket of rice?
As your daughter gets messy in the mud and sticks her hands in bowls of paint, she explores textures, colors and patterns and she has a blast while getting dirty.
We emphasize choice at LEAP and allow mixing and matching of materials across stations to encourage discovery. Children experiment with what works and what doesn’t. They wonder…
- What will a solid block look like on the light table?
- Do leaves and feather look different when I hold them up in front of the light?
- How many blocks can I stack before the tower falls over?
- Do musical instruments sound different depending on where I am in the building?
All of these questions happen internally at this age, and teach children about light and dark, shadows, shapes, balance and sound.
Each station brings a new topic to explore, new objects to manipulate, and exciting discoveries to be made. These discoveries are critical in establishing a foundation for understanding future scientific concepts. They impact a child’s ability to problem solve and positively influence literacy and math skills (Duschl, Schweingruber & Shouse, 2007). This process of scientific discovery takes time, and requires repeated exposure to the same materials and frequent opportunities for learning. Children can revisit the same activity, such as building, week to week, and deepen their understanding each time.
Exposing children to various materials and allowing time for unstructured play is critical to early science literacy. As parents and educators, our role is a simple but important one: provide opportunities for your child to engage with the natural world and engage in it with them. By making verbal observations of their actions and yours, you are expanding their knowledge of the world around them as well as their vocabulary. Laugh and get messy. Try new things together. Let them choose and watch as they investigate and experiment. Have fun with it!
Thank you all for allowing us to be a part of such an important and incredible time in your child’s life and for playing in the dirt and getting covered in paint with us, we love every moment of it! After all, it’s all in the name of science!
Duschl, Richard A.; Schweingruber, Heidi A.; & Shouse, Andrew W. (2007). Taking science to school: Learning and teaching science in grades K-8. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Trundle, Dr. Kathy Cabe. (2009). Best practices in science education: Teaching science during the early childhood years. National Geographic Hampton-Brown.
--Written by Emily Van Laan