The Early Years
“Adults play a central and important role in helping young children learn science,” is one of the key principles in the National Science Teaching Association’s Position Statement on Early Childhood Science Education (2014). The statement notes, “Everyday life is rich with science experiences, but these experiences can best contribute to science learning when an adult prepares the environment for science exploration, focuses children’s observations, and provides time to talk about what was done and seen.”
Connecting science learning experiences between home and school allows adults to support each other in preparing an environment rich with learning opportunities—whether it is a sink full of dishes, a rain puddle, or a water table with tubes and containers. Children’s connections between in-school learning and learning at home are more robust when educators and adult family members communicate about the science experiences and investigations that children are involved in. Family members may share anecdotes about children’s actions, books about a natural phenomenon being discussed at school, or materials for the class to use. A national survey about how parents of young children encourage and take part in their children’s learning found that “most parents indicated that more ideas for science activities, and ideas for doing science with everyday materials would help ‘a lot’ in doing more science at home,” and “reported that having more information about the science that their child should learn would help them do more science at home” (Silander et al. p. 31).
Early childhood educator Anne Lowry recommends a variety of ways for educators to make connections, such as interview questions for family members about a science topic, sending home “thinking questions” for students to discuss with family members, activity packs with a book and an activity to do at home, and gathering data at home, such as measuring snow depth in several spots to create class graphs (2019). See more ideas under References.
Choosing ways to connect with families means knowing something about them. Derman-Sparks and Olsen Edwards (2009) recommend clearly stating your program’s commitment to diversity of all family structures by including images of all kinds of families in books, posters, and puzzles; providing a variety of figurine dolls representing various ethnicities, ages, and genders; and by referring to “family” rather than always saying “parents” or “mom and dad” (p. 115). Families come in all shapes and sizes!
To engage families in science at home, such as exploring and talking about the properties of water together (see Supplemental Resources for additional ideas).
When children return, if some have not done the activity at home, arrange for an adult at school to do and talk about the activity with them before discussing as a group.
Ashbrook P. 2003. Science is simple: Over 250 activities for preschoolers. Gryphon House, Inc.
Derman-Sparks L., and Edwards J. Olsen. 2009. Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Lowry A. 2019. Supporting Family Engagement. NSTA Blog. August 6, 2019.
National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Message in a Backpack. Teaching Young Children.
Silander M., et al. 2018. What Parents Talk About When They Talk About Learning: A National Survey About Young Children and Science. New York and Menlo Park, CA: Education Development Center, Inc. and SRI International.
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Web SeminarNSTA/ASTE Web Seminar: The Role of Instructional Materials in Science Teacher Education, November 17, 2022
Join us on Thursday, November 17, 2022, from 7:00 PM to 8:15 PM ET for a NSTA/ASTE co-sponsored web seminar in the series titled Preparing t...