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What is Science Learning for Young Children?
December 15, 2020
Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.
-E.B. White

A website called Informal Science has this to say about young children’s development of science skills:

“Research over the last 50 years has fundamentally changed how educators and scientists understand the cognitive abilities of young children (Institute of Medicine & National Research Council, 2012; National Research Council, 2000a, 2000b, 2009). It is now broadly recognized that preschool children have well-developed theories about the natural and social worlds and that even at a very young age, these children are capable of complex, scientific reasoning (Cook, Goodman, & Schulz, 2011; Klahr, Zimmerman, & Jirout, 2011; National Research Council, 2000a, 2000b, 2009; National Science Teachers Association, 2009). Most importantly, even before entering school, young children demonstrate motivation, curiosity, and an intense drive to explore, learn, and control their environments (Klahr et al., 2011; National Research Council, 2000a, 2000b). (Informalscience.org, January 1, 2016)

And in the Out of the Box Training Kit, “Expanding Children’s Capacity for Scientific Inquiry,” Kelly Twibell and Diane Hawkins write:

“Science is the pursuit of meaning, patterns and truth about our world. As children grow, their search for meaning takes on new intentionality and focus; they begin to experiment…If I add red to the blue, it will turn purple. What will happen if I add brown?...

At one time, children’s science education focused heavily on memorizing facts and on other rote learning experiences. There was a flaw, however, in this educational approach. Fact-based education asks children, quite literally, to ‘check’ their imaginations at the front door.” The authors assert that the role of the early childhood practitioner in supporting children’s science learning is to “place less emphasis on the facts and more emphasis on wonder.”

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Comments (1)

Displaying 1 Comment
Francis Wardle · December 15, 2020
Denver, United States of America, United States

This piece is not totally accurate. People who believed in Piaget's theory (more than 50 yeas ago) know that one of the major activities of young chidlren is developing theories about how the world works. These theories are called schemas in Piaget's theory. We fought - bitterly - against those "educators" who advocated memorization. Piaget's cognitive theory matches the new understanding about how young chidlren learn science (and other complex topics, such as racial identity).

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