Children and science are a natural fit. Children want to explore, observe, question, ponder and experiment – and as they do, they are building their understanding of science and the world around them.
Our resources help educators nurture children’s natural affinity to science. They promote integrated, holistic and flexible approaches to science in early childhood education. Most importantly, they believe in children’s capacity to engage in science.
Science in early childhood education (ECE) is, simply put, the study of our natural world.
“Engaging with science starts in early childhood as young children explore their environment and start to make sense of the natural world that surrounds them” (ACARA, 2011).
During science in ECE, children will engage with the natural world and science concepts, language and processes. As explained in A Sense of Wonder, the science processes are problem-solving, inquiring, experimenting, hypothesising, researching and investigating. All of which make up science in ECE.
What does this look like, though?
It says in A Sense of Wonder, “Exploration of science can start with the excitement of discovering a spider’s web glistening with the morning dew, which might lead to the creation of a spider’s web made from twigs and wool.”
In early childhood settings, science can occur both indoors and outdoors. Learning can happen in the sandpit, block area, vegetable patch, watching the rain – the opportunities are endless.
Science is important in early childhood because it fosters children’s natural curiosity and interest in the world.
Additionally, it introduces children to scientific thinking by teaching them key skills, such as observing and predicting. As the Australian Council of Education Research (ACER, 2020) says, science education is not just learning facts. It is a way of thinking and developing skills to understand the world.
Science inquiry skills, such as predicting, also teach children it is acceptable to fail and that learning can result from mistakes. Encouraging these skills at a young age will help children further develop these dispositions as they get older (ACER, 2020).
Furthermore, positive early childhood science experiences can aid the development of scientific literacy as children get older. For example, young girls who show science-related interests tend to have higher achievement in science later (Education Review Office, 2021).
Promoting science in early childhood education (ECE) begins with providing opportunities for children to unleash their inner scientist. This means creating learning environments that nurture their natural curiosity and giving them time and space to explore.
Curiosity drives children to try new things and learn. It is fundamental to a scientific attitude.
To promote science in ECE, educators should allow children to be actively involved in their own play.
Instead of explaining concepts, the educator’s role is to guide inquiry. They provide open-ended materials and facilitate children’s learning by noticing and talking about what they are doing. This involves asking open-ended questions to see what the children think, “Why do you think that happened?”
Eyes Wide Open says educators should also provide opportunities for children to demonstrate their knowledge and learning in multiple ways. Science is promoted when educators adopt a flexible approach with choices rather than fixed programs or outcomes.
Lastly, taking advantage of everyday materials and experiences helps promote science. This is the premise behind A Sense of Wonder – Science in Early Childhood book, which sees science learning opportunities “all around in our everyday lives.”