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Supporting Children's Understanding of Science

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Young children are naturally curious about the world around them. They often wonder "why" and are eager to explore and experiment to understand how things work.

Some ways that early childhood professionals can build on this innate curiosity include:

  • Providing children with scientific tools that invite explorations
  • Engaging children in a variety of naturalistic experiences
  • Encouraging children to ask questions

The videos and resources below illustrate strategies and ideas for supporting young children's developing interest in and understanding of science.

Two preschoolers experiment by pouring water from containers into clear plastic tubing at the water tableProviding Opportunities for Experimentation and Problem-Solving (2:28)

In this video from the "Reflection from the Field" series, preschool teacher Karen DelMastro describes how she purposefully plans experiences to provide children with opportunities to experiment and solve problems.

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Two preschoolers do a bark rubbing by rubbing the sides of crayons over a sheet of paper placed against a tree trunkInvestigating Trees (11:35)

In this video from the "Investigating" series, preschool and toddler teachers describe how children studied trees for several months. Children studied the different parts of a tree, compared the bark from different types of trees, observed changes in trees as the season changed, learned about the kinds of animals that live in and on trees, and inspected an old beehive.

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Child's drawing of a pond, with the caption, "This is the water. This is a rainbow. Here's the sun and clouds, and this is the little dragonfly. And this is the rock."Documenting a Learning Experience: Frogs and the Pond (2:09)

In this video from the "Reflections from the Field" series, preschool teacher Heather Oski describes her efforts to create a documentation panel highlighting the classroom's investigation on frogs, including the children's observations of frogs and their habitat both in the classroom and at a nearby pond.

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A preschooler inspects worms on a tray through a magnifying glass while his teacher pointsInvestigating Nature (10:31)

In this video from the "Investigating" series, preschool and toddler teachers describe a months-long investigation about nature. Children learned about seeds and plants by growing a garden, observed and inspected insects and worms, and conducted water experiments.

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Preschoolers stand in a shallow stream and observe as their teacher lifts up a large rock and points to what was under the rockInvestigating Rocks (10:13)

In this video from the "Investigating" series, preschool teachers Patricia Gardner and Patrice Ramm describe how children investigated rocks for several months. Children explored the different properties of rocks, broke rocks apart to see what was inside, experimented with stacking rocks, and searched for rocks in nature.

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Investigating Balls (10:10)A girl holds a ball at the top of a small ramp. Another child's arm is visible holding a cylinder at the top of the ramp

In this video from the "Investigating..." series, preschool and toddler teachers describe how children investigated balls for several months. Children experimented by rolling different kinds of balls down ramps of various heights, created their own games using balls, and explored the properties of balls by cutting into them.

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Investigating ContainersA preschooler stands at a table with a variety of plastic and cardboard bottles and other containers (11:22)

In this video from the "Investigating..." series, preschool and toddler teachers describe how children developed an understanding of the properties and uses of containers. Children explored the different types of materials containers are made out of, used containers and rope to make a telephone, and took a field trip to learn how containers facilitate growth in a greenhouse.

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Preschoolers stand in front of bins to sort recyclingInvestigating Going Green (10:28)

In this video from the "Investigating" series, preschool teachers describe how children learned about the planet, recycling, and the concept of "going green" in an in-depth investigation lasting several months. The project culminated in a nature walk.

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