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Supportive communities for teaching science in the early childhood years

By Peggy Ashbrook

Posted on 2019-01-02

Child squeezing out white school glue onto a pinecone craft.There are times when educators miss opportunities to support young children’s interest in exploring and  learning about natural phenomena. We might be otherwise engaged, too focused on the next activity, or uncomfortable with what is happening. We might be talking with one child while another eagerly tries to tell us about a bird flying by, or we don’t want to pause for a minute and listen to the firetruck going past, or get Child pointing to a cricket.too close to that small animal. Sometimes a child uses too many materials or a child’s actions lead to an undesirable amount of cleanup, such as when a child squeezes and squeezes the glue bottle until there is a huge puddle of glue on the paper and the bottle is empty and then reaches for another bottle. Sometimes the school system requirements don’t include teaching science for any amount of time. 

How do we get better at facilitating meaningful explorations so children have first hand experiences and conversations to help them make sense of the natural phenomena they encounter? How can we incorporate math and language and literacy learning so children develop the skills they need to discuss and communicate about their experiences?

Supportive communities for teaching science in the early childhood years can be found online. The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) position statements support educators in advocating for the time we need to develop our own learning as well as to teach science in our early childhood classrooms. These statements can be shared with colleagues, administrators, and policy makers to make them aware of the support needed for quality science education. The NSTA Learning Center forums give us a place to ask questions and share strategies and resources that make it possible for us to teach. For NSTA members, the listservs provide a responsive community we can access through email with questions and shared guidance. The NSTA journal, Science and Children publishes educator experiences and reviews of resources. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) publishes science education articles in journals and has an interest forum, the Early Childhood Science Interest Forum (ECSIF), that organizes conference sessions, holds meetings, and posts on the NAEYC social media site Hello.

 Webinars, or online conversations, can help you build a community of science-interested educators when you take notes of the ideas that you want to try and resources to look up, and watch with colleagues, then hold a discussion to gain more insight into the ideas presented. I presented one of the modules in the 11-part Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in Early Learning Series from the Preschool Development Grant, and just watched two from the LinkEngineering Educator Exchange: Building Literacy with PK-2 Engineering Experiences, and Playful Learning: Make Engineering Fun.

I’d love to hear about the communities that support your science learning and science teaching!

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