How to Teach Science to Young Children
Science can be an intimidating subject for many parent. But starting children down the road to become scientists does not have to be difficult or confusing. There are really only three things you need to bear in mind while teaching your child science: memorize science basics, introduce science vocabulary and model science questioning.
Science Concepts for Young Children
First, understand that during the preschool and elementary years a young scientist's primary focus is memorization. There are a large number of science basics that will aid young scientists in their future understanding of science. In fact, there are so many basics you could address that you should pick and choose what interests you and your child and not get caught up in trying to cover everything.
Some of the science basics concepts you could consider covering are:
- Living things versus nonliving things
- Animals versus plants
- Animal names and sounds
- Animal habitats
- Plant parts
- Types of weather
- Types of rocks
- Types of clouds
- Categories of animals
- Categories of plants
This is by no means an exhaustive list, just some ideas to get your started. Also, if your child shows a particular interest in a subject then by all means proceed beyond the basics. Allow your child to indulge her interest by learning all she desires about the subject.
Science Vocabulary for Young Children
Second, introduce your child to the vocabulary of science through science experiments. If you are worried about finding experiments there are a variety of books that supply step by step science experiments for young children. You can also shop at your local teacher supply store or most craft stores for a complete science kit, which includes everything you need for at least one science project.
What to Include On A Lab Sheet
As you walk through the experiment remember that aside from imparting basic science concepts you are introducing the vocabulary and format of science experiments. If your child is old enough create an actual lab sheet with your child. If, however, they are too young you can still create a verbal lab report with your child.
Proper lab reports should contain the following information:
- An experiment title, the participants and the date of the experiment
- The Purpose of the experiment that is why are you conducting this experiment
- The Hypothesis or your child's best guess about what will happen based on what she already knows about the world
- The Materials, which is simply a list of the supplies you are using to complete your experiment
- The Procedure or the steps you took to complete the experiment
- The Conclusion or what was learned from completing this experiment (You will need to talk this over with your child as she will be unlikely to reach conclusions without your assistance.)
- An additional, but not mandatory, feature of lab reports is the illustration. If your child has a sketch or drawing that will aid in understanding the experiment than include the information. Drawing the information will reinforce what you have studied.
Teaching Science Skills to Young Children
Lastly, remember that science is about asking questions. Model this behavior for your child. Start with things you child knows and ask questions that will expand her knowledge about that subject. Then help her discover the answer.
For example "We know there are many animals, what types of animals are there?" Then you can begin a discussion about the classification system used to categorize living things.
"Plants don't have parts like we do, what kind of parts do plants have?" Then you can begin a discussion about plant anatomy.
"We've seen rocks in the back yard, but what kinds of rocks are there?" Then you can start a discussion about the three types of rock: sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous.
Modeling Questioning During Science Experiments
Of course, questioning should also be modeled during experiments. Introduce an experiment by posing a question that the experiment will answer. Allow your child to brainstorm possible answers to the question. You might need to suggest different concepts that your child has already learned that will be relevant to the experiment, but phrase them as questions. "We've seen steam rising from a boiling pot, do you think that will have anything to do with our experiment?"
Ask your child questions as you move through the procedure of experiment. "What do you think will happen next? Do you still agree with your hypothesis?" And end the experiment by walking your child through the process of moving from the question to the conclusion.
Science does not have to be difficult. Simply provide your child with some basic scientific information. Introduce your child to the procedures and vocabulary of science. Model the questioning fundamental to scientific inquiry and how to proceed to a conclusion. With a foundation like that your child will not be intimidated by later science classes.
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