education.govt.nz

Learning the wonder of science – together

Issue: Volume 98, Number 2

Posted: 11 February 2019
Reference #: 1H9r2D

Preschoolers and their teachers are learning with each other through a shared interest in the world around them.

Children experiment and learn with their senses.

Children experiment and learn with their senses.

First Years Preschool in Dannevirke has been focusing on science for over 10 years, after teachers realised both they and the children had a strong interest in this area of the curriculum.

Manager Lisa Bond says the children have a natural interest and inquisitive nature towards science because it connects so strongly with the world they live in.

Learning to respect the living world reflects the Exploration | Mana aotūroa strand in Te Whāriki.

Learning to respect the living world reflects the Exploration | Mana aotūroa strand in Te Whāriki.

“We’ve found [this] particularly with the living world, so the teachers here foster and develop that interest and extend on the interests of the children,” she says.

“So snails and worms, life cycle of the monarch butterfly… we have lambs that visit, we have two chooks that live here, we have animals coming in and out, we have pets that children bring in to visit. A lot of it is around the living world in everyday life.”

The teachers are highly skilled and co-construct knowledge with children, so everyone learns together.

“It’s about making sense of the world that children live in and it’s about supporting their interests,” Lisa says.

“It’s at whatever level that children take it, but also we have teachers learning and
co-constructing alongside children … often the children will ask questions that the teachers don’t know answers to, so they’ll be researching and learning with the children.”

The living world

A child experiments with chemical reactions.

A child experiments with chemical reactions.

Teachers have learned about dissection so they can then help the children to explore the biology of other living creatures.

“We’ve also got resources like a human-sized skeleton and anatomically correct hearts and lungs, plastic of course, but they’re early childhood resources so there’s a lot of talk about how these organs work and how they work in our own bodies. It’s teaching children an awareness of their own body and how it functions and how those organs function in other living creatures as well.”

Two children mix substances to see the outcomes.

Two children mix substances to see the outcomes.

Children are empowered to explore their environment and become comfortable with asking questions as they research. This approach reflects the Exploration | Mana aotūroa strand in Te Whāriki and the learning outcome “that over time and with guidance and encouragement, children become increasingly capable of making sense of their worlds by generating and refining working theories” (page 57).

Developing knowledge

Through thoughtful and intentional practice, teachers are providing opportunities for children to develop knowledge and a range of capabilities.

The centre also explores chemistry by looking at the reactions between different substances, such as baking soda and vinegar or oil and water, and talking about experiments, causes and reactions. Using household substances makes the experiments safe and also easy for children to replicate at home with parents.

A teacher demonstrates a floating and sinking experiment.

A teacher demonstrates a floating and sinking experiment.

“They will ask their teachers if they can do an experiment and will say to me ‘we’re going to do an experiment, come and see, so they’ll bring experiences from home; they get opportunities to revisit their learning,” Lisa says.

“We think it’s really important to teach children about the world that they live in. There’s quite strong research and we found out for ourselves here too that if you can instil a love for the living world in children when they’re very young they tend to carry it throughout their lives.” 

The Centre of Innovation Programme

First Years Preschool participated in the Early Childhood Education Centres of Innovation (COI) programme, which ran between 2003 and 2009.
The programme aimed to improve the quality of early childhood education and promote a deeper exploration of innovative teaching and learning processes already underway in early childhood services.
Selected services were required to research and further develop their existing innovative practice and then disseminate information about their innovation and the outcomes of their research.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 9:05 am, 11 February 2019

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