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21 Princes Street, Kensington, Whangarei, New Zealand

Phone: 09 437 2742

Email: mairtown@nka.org.nz

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Sunday, 23 February 2014

Fostering Scientific Thinking





A couple of weeks ago, one of our children, Thomas, brought in a live centipede (in a jar) that he had found in his garden over the weekend.  Since then bugs have become a huge source of interest for many of our children, and interestingly sparked some further bug hunting.  We now have quite a collection consisting of a cricket, lots of cicada shells, three cockroaches, 2 dead cicadas, a dried centipede, a scarab beetle, a dragon fly and a weta.




Examining and discussing the have bugs proved to totally capture the children’s interest; as more children become involved and share their thoughts, ideas and theories about these creatures, this in turn sparks more interest amongst our other children.




Collaborative learning in small groups aids the exchange of ideas, increases interest among the participants and also promotes critical thinking (Gokhale, 1995).
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As I talked to the children and encouraged their dialogue, they asked many interesting and thoughtful questions. Is it dead? Will it come back to life again? Does it have eyes? How long does it live? What does it eat? Is it going to bite me?

The more they talked, questioned, hypothesised, compared and reasoned it became clear this was going to be a wonderful opportunity to work with the children in extending their scientific thinking.




Many people misinterpret what science is in an early childhood context.  As Wilson states “Knowing the right answer…is not one of the primary objectives of science in the early childhood curriculum. Knowing the right answer, requires no decisions, carries no risks, and makes no demands. It is automatic. It is thoughtless. A far more important objective is to help children realize that answers about the world can be discovered through their own investigations”.


So how do we do this? Clearly we all now know how naturally curious children are, their questions and theories flow freely. Childhood is a special time when we aren’t as afraid as adults to make mistakes; children's questions and ideas should be nurtured, encouraged and valued. As their teacher I can certainly assist in fostering our children’s scientific thinking by asking questions of my own. Known as productive questions, these help bridge the gap between what children already know and what they experience, it takes children forward in their thinking.


Lead by the question, what does it eat? Here is one of our cockroaches
 eating some biscuit...





Some examples of the productive questions I have been asking these past few weeks are; What is it doing? How does it feel? How are they different/alike? What if…..? How could we…? What do you think? Can you explain that?


In completing our research and to help with our discoveries we have used the internet, books, our microscope (a favourite with the children and a wonderful tool for further extending children’s thinking and engagement with our bugs) and of course magnifying lenses and sheets.





Many children have also chosen to answer some of their questions through completing observational drawing. Observational drawing is a tool we use frequently at Mairtown and assists children in looking at the finer elements of specific objects in more detail often leading to joyous discoveries.


Look at this wonderful dialogue from Marcus as he drew a centipede. You can almost see the different stages of his thinking as he questions, reasons and works through his ideas.

“I always knew centipedes had a long body, but now I know they have lines on the body. Oh and at the head they don’t have lines, the legs are long and look like a circle.  Where are the eyes? I can’t see the eyes. I think they have eyes as eyes make things see.” We move onto talking about what they eat. “Can they eat elephants? I don’t know. Elephants are super big so they couldn’t probably eat elephants. These pincey ones (antennas) are for killing food I think. Do they have mouths, oh yeah; they must do because they eat it. (Looking carefully) oh yes I can see some teeth so they do have mouths. These are for banging people away (talking about the antennae) so when they bang into things, so they don’t have eyes, so they just know where they are going, so when they bang into things they just eat them. I haven’t actually seen centipedes before. I don’t know where they live, maybe bushes; there are no bushes at my place so there are no centipedes at my place.”
 
Marcus's centipede
Emma's scarab beetle
Mia's centipede



















“Children are naturally curious about the world and want to find out as much as they can. They want to know what makes the wind blow, how trees grow, why fish have fins, and where turtles go in the winter. But they don’t want adults to give them the answers. They want to be the discoverers, the experimenters, and the theory builders. They don’t want science to be something that is imparted to them; they want it to be something that they do. They want to be scientists; not just consumers of science. They want to ask their own questions, collect their own data, and arrive at new and wonderful ideas. These “wants” should shape the foundation of an early childhood science curriculum.” Wilson


 








I am looking forward to seeing where our investigations will take us this coming week…..

Nga mihi,

Christine

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