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Providing Opportunities for Experimentation and Problem-Solving

Reflections from the Field

Preschool teacher Karen DelMastro describes how she purposefully plans experiences to provide children with opportunities to experiment and solve problems. These experiences encourage the children to use materials in new and unexpected ways to solve problems and to draw on multiple strategies when faced with a problem. DelMastro's planned experiments offer opportunities to explore cause and effect and for children to observe varied results.

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  • Video Transcript for Providing Opportunities for Experimentation and Problem-Solving

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    Karen DelMastro, Preschool Teacher, Windham Early Childhood Center: Well, I think about what we’re studying, and at this time we were studying pond, and part of our pond study included frogs, so it went along with what we were learning. I posed a question first before we started that the frogs needed some water, so I put the frogs in a pan and asked them how can they get the water to the frogs? I set it up so that it would be a problem for them to solve. I like to use a lot of different materials, so they’re open-ended; children can use them in different ways. They start playing in the water table. They had variety of objects that they could use to move the water into the pan with the frogs. Some children might pick up the materials and use them and try different things. Other children might just pick up one of the objects and use the same object over and over again. So I might be ready to step in and support them.

    Karen: I wonder if we could use this tool. Do you want to try it? So if you put it in here, it goes all over the place. I wonder if there’s anything you can use. Oh, I think you came up with another way to get the water in there.

    Karen DelMastro:
    I try to facilitate what the children are doing, and then they experiment with it.

    Child: See?
    Karen: You figured it out!

    Karen DelMastro: I want the children to be able to experiment with different materials, so I’ll set something up. And other times a problem pops up naturally, and then they have to figure out how to solve that problem.

    Child 1: We’re filling this, right?
    Child 2: Yep.
    Child 1: Because all those frogs will die, right?
    Child 2: Yeah. 
    Child 1: And the frogs need water.

    © 2016 Connecticut Office of Early Childhood
    Produced by the Center for Early Childhood Education at Eastern Connecticut State University.
    May be reprinted for educational purposes.
  • Producers: Terry Surprenant, Sean Leser
    Script: Terry Surprenant
    Editing and Videography: Sean Leser

    Special thanks to Windham Early Childhood Center in Willimantic, Connecticut for their cooperation in making this video.

    The development of this video was funded by the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood.