Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Appreciating Children's Scientific Interests

As promised here is the first official post on the most helpful and captivating portions of my recent trip to the NSTA (National Science Teacher's Association) Convention in Indianapolis this past week. Over the next week or so I am going to be reporting on some of my favorite sessions and "aha" moments. I will also be documenting how I am bringing some of these new ideas into my classroom.

I have already experienced the frustrating realization that creating change in any classroom can be a daunting and overwhelming task, never mind trying to create change throughout an entire school. However, with that said I feel that I have already made a pivotal change in the way I think about my science instruction. I now think about weaving science in all day long. I have a greater appreciation for the child who found a piece of a bee hive on the playground; I actually said yes when the students asked me if we could check on the corn we planted a few weeks ago even though recess was over and it wasn't in my plans; we took out the magnifying glasses during writing time and made observations so we could write nonfiction. So perhaps it is possible to implement new ideas right away and even more importantly it is possible to re-frame the way you interact with children and think about their experiences throughout the day.

One of the first sessions I attended was called "Developing Literacy, Math, Science, and Social Studies school-readiness skills in early childhood education." The presenters discussed how they used local wildlife and farm animals to foster that nature of science in young children. They had a grant to help fund some of the outreach programs that they organized for preschoolers and parents; however, with or without grant money it is possible for early childhood teachers to use their surroundings to spark students interest in their world. Working in an inner city I have fallen into a habit of thinking that my students don't think about their surroundings because we lack a rich background in which to explore. NOT TRUE! This presentation focused on birds and how to lead an inquiry project on local birds that you would see around your school. I have three take aways from this presentation:

 1. This lovely homemade whiteboard made out of tagboard and plastic sheet protector. They are so much easier to pass out and store compared to those heavy lap-sized whiteboards. Here we were using them for a simple Venn Diagram sort.

2. The other great resource I was introduced to were the Baby Einstein Animal Discovery Cards. These cards have beautiful, high-impact photographs of various animals on the front and a brief description on the back...perfect for beginning readers. I also like how large the cards are. They would be a great tool to kick off an animal unit by discussing student observations.

3. I am kicking myself for not taking a quick picture of the last activity these presenters shared. They had 8-10 plastic tubs with various materials in them. Then next to each tub were different types of utensils and "stabbers." The activity was modeled around different kinds of beaks and how they are designed to pick up various kinds of food. Students could experiment with each utensil and make observations and conclusions about what they found. This was a very high interest inquiry project even for adults!

Last, while I'm on the topic of early childhood science, I picked up this fantastic resource at the convention book store. It is a refreshing collection of articles about teacher's research in the area of early childhood science. I have flown through it. Check it out here!

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