New resources from ACER aim to improve young children’s scientific understanding
The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) has released a free set of resources aiming to improve young children’s scientific understanding by encouraging educators to recognise science not just as a subject, but as an approach to learning that is present in everyday activities.
The Science in the Early Years series was developed to help preschool and Foundation to Year Two educators to incorporate the latest research into science learning and development into their teaching.
Authors Christine Rosicka and Gayl O’Connor emphasised that science “isn’t just about learning facts, it is a way of thinking and developing skills so that we can understand the world,” with increasing bodies of research showing that developing the science inquiry skills of observing, predicting, checking, recording and communicating can teach young children that it is acceptable to fail and that learning can come from making mistakes.
Because young children may be more willing to take risks and to accept mistakes than older children, the authors said, it’s important that traits of risk taking and accepting mistakes are developed from a younger age, if they are to be further developed as the children get older.
ACER’s Science in the early years series includes four activities that educators can complete to develop young children’s science inquiry skills and monitor their science learning. These activities – exploring plants, mixing liquids, floating and sinking, and light and shadows – are also appropriate for parents whose children are learning at home.
As well as the activities themselves, the series provides examples of developmentally appropriate ways of monitoring young children’s science skills and knowledge, such as discussing stories, and creating drawings and models. Such monitoring enables educators to determine what the child already knows, identify any misconceptions that require correcting and inform what might be explored next.
Educators are not expected to have all the answers, but rather to be facilitators who work alongside the children to find the answers to the questions children raise, the authors explained. Likewise, the program is not intended to add extra burdens to the educators day, but rather to fit in with things already happening in the space.
“Science isn’t something that needs to be taught in isolation from other learning areas. If science is cleverly integrated, it can mean that more skills and content can be covered at the same time” Rosicka and O’Connor said.
The resources support science inquiry skills which are integral aspects of both the Early Years Learning Framework and the Foundation to Year 2 Australian Curriculum, and may be downloaded from the ACER website, here.