What Should Teachers Do When They Teach Science?


This webpage provides early childhood educators with information and resources developed by California University of Pennsylvania and partners with grant funding from PNC Financial Services Group. There is more information about the PNC Grow UP Great with Science project at Cal U on this webpage. Follow the links below to access science activities and resources for early childhood science education.

Science Activity Ideas for Early Childhood Learners

These science activity and resource wepages are organized by Pennsylvania's Early Childhood Learning Standards (2009 rev). The activities were developed and presented by Cal U faculty, students, project partner staff and invited experts at the teacher workshops or family field trips. These workshops and field trips covered specific themes so not all EC standards will have activity suggestions. Some activities are ready to use while others will require some adapation in materials or procedures for your specific circumstances.

Life Science

Environment & Ecology Science

Physical Science

Earth Science

Science Inquiry

Designing a Solution to an Everyday Problem (Technology & Engineering Design)

Science Teaching Strategies for Early Childhood Learners

These science teaching strategy wepagse provide research-based, best practice suggestions on how to teach early childhood learners science. They are organized by the science teaching strategy.

What Should Teachers Do When They Teach Science?

What Should Children Do When They "Do Science?"


What Should Teachers Do When They Teach Science?

When you walk into an early childhood classroom, what should you do to help children learn science? Often the first thought is to tell children science information and facts...to pass on the knowledge of previous generations to the next generation. While this is a part of science learning, it is more important in the early childhood years to develop the capability to do science rather than memorize its facts. Over the years the science education community developed evidence that some teaching strategies work better for many children. The following webpage describes those strategies we think teachers should use with their students.

Allow Students to Work Together to Develop Individual Ideas

Always be Accepting of all Children's Ideas


Provide Children with Opportunities to Observe Science & Nature

One of the characteristics of doing science is to practice making observations. Children have limited experiences and so the early childhood teacher should help children access new experiences that allows them to evolve explanations of what they observe. Some children may not have had much practice using a ruler to measure length...so teachers can provide rulers and help children to practice measuring. Children may not have seen a plant grow...so teachers can provide seeds and help children observe the stages of plant growth.



Use Real Objects and Materials

Many children spend many hours engaged with electronic media. While electronic media can be educational it also separates children from real experiences with real objects. The early childhood teacher should provide children with real objects whenever possible. For instance having real sea shells on a discovery table is better than having pictures of seashells. Taking children outside to observe real clouds is better than gluing cotton balls to paper plates to form "clouds." Showing children real tadpoles growing in an aquarium over months (or going on a field trip to a pond) is better than watching a video of tadpole growth compressed into several minutes. While all experiences can impact student learning, try to include as many hands-on experiences with real objects as possible.


Help Children Record Their Observations in Science Notebooks or Nature Journals or Drawings or Verbal Explanations

A key aspect of doing science is to record observations. Early childhood learners can use paper to create drawings of their observations or share their observations with their teacher verbally.

Listen to Children Practice Explaining Their Thinking

The most important attribute of a teacher of science is to listen to children explain things. Often a simple question such as: "Ummm. So how would you explain .......?" is enough for a child to verbally explain their thinking. Frequently the children's explanations do not match how an adult would explain things or a scientist. Yet the opportunity to take what they observe and turn it into an explanation is an important lifelong skill.

Use Knowledge About Children's Common Misconceptions in Science To Design Learning Experiences

Although children are all unique and individual, there are some misconceptions about science concepts that the science education community (or experienced teachers) have identified as commonly occuring in children's explanations. Teachers should work to become familiar with these common science misconceptions and the science activities that can help children change their misconceptions to more accurate explanations.

Listen to Children's Ideas On How To Investigate Science Questions and Assists Them in Conducting Those Investigations

A child's life is filled with questions about the world. Questions such as, "Why does rain come from clouds?" to "How do I get a car to roll faster down a ramp?" provide the teacher with excellent opportunities for children to explore their explanations. The starting place is to listen carefully to children's questions and then help them invent ways to explore their own questions.


Provide Children with Opportunities to Collect Data in Ongoing Investigations

The foundation of science is evidence. The gathering of information to provide the evidence for a conclusion is data collection. For instance when a teacher asks children, "How many blocks can you stack up before they fall over?"...this is a data collection activity especially if the child keeps track of the number of blocks on a piece of paper. If a teacher places three plants, one in a sunny window, one in shade and one in a dark closet, the children can draw pictures of the plants or describe the plants over several weeks. Collecting data is a key science skill to practice with children.

Provide Readily Available Science Tools and Materials for Children To Practice Using

Every early childhood teacher should have a supply of science tools for children to practice using. Rulers, measuring cups and magnifying glasses are a great starting place.


Phasing Questions to Children that Promote Science as Inquiry

Asking questions in the right way to promote science as inquiry is key to successful science teaching. Questions such as, "How many legs does an insect have?" promote science as facts to be memorized. It is more important to provide the students with a variety of insects and ask, What do you notice about the number of legs on these insects?" This leads to observation and the formation of their own explanations for what makes an insect different from other animals.




Last updated: July 1, 2013

Copyright© 2003-2020 J. William Hug
All Rights Reserved - "No logo, graphic, image, text, or content from this website may be copied
or retransmitted without express prior written permission."