Science Learning in Preschool
Concepts are being acquired during the early years that serve as a foundation for more complex and abstract knowledge later on. Concepts such as counting, classifying, measurement and one-to-one correspondence are the basic concepts that are acquired during the pre-primary years. According to Piaget, the period of cognitive development can be divided into four stages. The period between two to seven is that of the preoperational stage. Although concepts are developing rapidly during this stage, children at this stage still have the inability to conserve or grasp the idea of reversibility and they have a tendency towards the idea of centration. Piaget’s view of the process of acquiring knowledge by children is that they construct their ideas and concepts through interactions with the environment. Vygotsky’s theory utilizes the concept of scaffolding and ZPD or the zone of proximal development which implies that learning takes place in stages and teachers are facilitators who help children progress from one stage to the next by helping them make connections in the various subject domains.
Inquiry-based approach are based on the practice of observing, predicting, questioning, investigating, collaborating, communicating, interpreting information and using tools to gather information. An inquiry-based science approach in the early childhood classroom facilitates the process of integrating knowledge and understanding from different areas to make coherence and sense of the young child’s rather disorganized attempts at understanding the larger concepts and ideas of scientific knowledge.
The children crowded around the table to learn more about the shells that the teacher had brought. Who knows what these are? Where can you find them? A couple of them raised their hands; ‘Seashells… At the beach’. The children took turns to look more closely at the shells and were given the magnifying glass to examine some features of the shells more closely. “Teacher, why are there so many lines on the shell?” “Why are there patterns on the shell?” “Why is this shell so shiny? What are those lumps in the shell?… These were some of the questions posed by the children. One of the conch shells was large enough for the children to place their ear over the opening of the shell to listen to the echoing ‘waves’. The children took turns to hold the conch shell close to their ear to listen to the ‘sea’.
“Alright class, let’s place the shells back on the table… “The teacher collected back the shells and placed them aside. She then takes out a printed display of several cards. “Now, can anyone tell me what similarities are there between this Garden Snail and the shells you have just seen?” she pointed to the garden snail picture. “I know I know… “Several hands shot up as the children volunteered their answers. “They have shells.” “Correct, Jason. The sea shells you just saw once had a living animal in it, such as a hermit crab.” “Some shells have 2 halves, like clams, mussels, scallops and oysters. The shiny shell you see here is mother-of-pearl,” as she lifts up one of the shells with a shiny inner surface. “Now, what other animals have shells?”
“I know… eggs have shells,” volunteers Janice.