what's the big deal about science week?

With Mary Thomasson, Nominated Supervisor

“At Skippy’s, we celebrate Science Week with a bang, because we know how important science is for Early Learning,” says Mary Thomasson, Nominated Supervisor.


Children are born with a sense of wonder and a passion to understand the world around them. They instinctively ask questions, observe, and try out solutions - all important parts of thinking scientifically.


For young children, science is just an extension of their everyday world. We don’t have to teach young children how to wonder, discover, and explore through play, because they do it naturally.

As young children explore through play, they learn many science concepts. And even more learning occurs when a child is offered a variety of learning opportunities.


The Benefits of Early Years Science Education


Providing opportunities for scientific discovery in early years settings is beneficial to young children in several ways:


  • It can foster a lifelong love of science

Children’s early interests directly influence their interests later in life. Children are programmed to explore and experiment right from the start, even as babies. On the other hand, research suggests that by the age of 7, most children have developed either a positive or negative attitude towards science education that will remain entrenched. So, by tapping into their natural predispositions early on, during this key developmental phase, we can nurture and establish a positive approach to science education that will stay with them into the future.

  • It gives a basic grounding in scientific concepts and scientific thinking

Even the very simplest activities can introduce children to scientific concepts and stimulate scientific thinking. Early years science education can provide a strong foundation in terms of both what is learned, and how it’s learned, that will stand them in good stead. By encouraging and directing their natural curiosity, and familiarising them with basic scientific vocabulary, early years educators can help children begin to make sense of the world around them, and gain some understanding of how things work.

  • It supports the development of other skills and attributes

Science education activities provide children with opportunities to develop and practice many different skills and attributes. These include communication skills, collaborative skills, team working and perseverance, as well as analytical, reasoning and problem-solving skills. It helps them expand their vocabulary by using scientific terms that are appropriate for their age group, and encourages them to extend and embed their learning through related literacy, numeracy and creative activities.

  • Science allows young children to develop life skills.

Science involves a lot of talking and listening to others. It develops patience, too –in science things don't always happen overnight. As those in scientific fields know, scientific inquiry requires communication, perseverance, organization, and attention to detail, all of which form part of a well-rounded education.


So why is it important to teach children about science from the earliest years?


With a steadily increasing number of STEM opportunities in the workplace, it is paramount that opportunities are not lost to engage children in the sciences. Early childhood education is a perfect time to introduce the joys of scientific discovery, because young children are already hands-on learners.


True play-based learning is about hands-on activities. Not only do young children eagerly throw themselves into physical play, but they also learn best this way. Learning through play is a perfect opportunity for these kinesthetic and tactile learners to experiment with simple scientific processes such as cause-and-effect.


When we do not spend time on science in these early years, we are missing out on prime timing. We must grasp these moments, and construct opportunities to intentionally teach a love of science.


Taking the right approach to early years science education


When it comes to instilling a love of science in young children, there are some key considerations to keep in mind. “These principles are deeply ingrained in our educational programming at Skippy’s,” says Mary:

  • The process is more important than the results

Although it’s valuable for the children to gain some scientific understanding along the way, finding the ‘right’ answer should not be the topmost objective; the main goals are to channel their curiosity, and to foster their investigative skills.

  • Be open to child-led discovery

As well as organising specific activities for the children to participate in, try to look out for spontaneous, daily opportunities for scientific discovery, guided by you but ultimately led by the children. Encourage them to always experiment and ask questions, and have plenty of resources available for them to use, play and explore with.

  • Offer active, fun, hands-on experiences

Most young children love physical exploration – the messier the better – so if you can tap into this, their favoured learning style, you’ll find it much easier to engage them and maintain their interest. Keep activities short and varied, and always make sure that there is plenty of opportunity for active, first-hand involvement for everyone.


Ideas for Science Activities


A simple internet search will find you loads of science activities you can do with your kids. Here are a few fun links to get you started:


https://funlearningforkids.com/science-activities-preschoolers/

https://happyhooligans.ca/chemical-reactions-for-preschoolers/

https://www.kidspot.com.au/things-to-do/collection/science-experiments

Sources:

https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/science-development-and-young-children/

https://jobs.newscientist.com/en-au/article/why-attracting-young-children-to-science-is-important/

https://www.firstdiscoverers.co.uk/science-education-early-childhood/