Hands-on Science For Young Children

  • Work-from-home


‎Pяiиcε ♥
Oct 9, 2013
Do you know a child who is not completely full of questions? As educators and parents, it’s easy to tune out the barrage of inquiries—but wait—could we be missing valuable teaching moments full of motivated learners? The resounding answer is, YES! What may be a never-ending supply of trivial questions may, in fact, be a complex science investigation. “Teachers can stimulate curiosity by asking questions themselves, and by responding with warmth and enthusiasm to children’s inquiries” (Trawick-Smith, p. 205). Those who work with young children have the unique opportunity to facilitate powerful learning experiences and inspire deeper investigations that will validate and empower children to learn. Hands-on science activities and investigations are essential components of any early childhood setting, and they help lay the foundation for life-long learning and healthy development.


Research: Before educators can embark on designing an effective hands-on science program for young children, it’s important to know a bit about how a child’s brain works. The brain is a pattern-seeking machine, and science is the quest to recognize and classify naturally occurring patterns. Jensen, author of Teaching with the Brain in Mind, says, “Using the pattern-detecting and pattern-making areas of the brain is critical to proper development” (p. 96).

Children are naturally equipped to learn through observation and investigations. Every experience, every word, every toy deeply impacts her understanding of her world and the connections she makes. Every time a child learns something new, the brain rewires itself based on the child’s understanding. Every time the child repeats a task or a skill that particular neural pathway is reinforced and strengthened. “Learning changes the brain because it can rewire itself with each new stimulation, experience, and behavior” (Jensen, p. 13). Providing varied and multiple opportunities for a child to use what she has just learned are important ways to help build efficient connections in the brain. It may be as simple as providing blocks to drop and knock over once you’ve noticed that the child is dropping a cup from the highchair. The more a neural pathway in a child’s brain is used, the stronger it becomes; conversely, if it is not used, the pathway can be lost.

In early childhood it is equally important that science activities be hands-on, child-driven, authentic, and active. Developmentally, young children learn and understand best from what they can see, touch, feel, and manipulate. Providing safe, readily available materials that children can experiment with is one of the most important steps towards effective hands-on science investigations.

Effective educators use a child’s own natural curiosity and questions to fuel science investigations. Another way to explore science concepts is with informational books and stories infused with science concepts like weather, water, animals, etc. Science activities and investigations are also a great way to build oral vocabulary, develop reading readiness, and fuel literacy development.

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