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Why Create a Science Corner in Your Preschool Program?

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Why Create a Science Corner in Your Preschool Program?  

by: Gail Leopold (admin)

 



Science on the preschool level does not have to delve deep into the scientific method or theory – but rather should present an interesting exposure of the scientific world to beginners seeing it all for the first time. There is no testing involved – just playing around with the amazing concepts that abound in our natural world.  Concepts like color, nature, weather, water, magnets, animals and much more.   Providing a special interest area or science learning center in your program can offer many hands-on opportunities and activities that will fascinate and teach curious children.  




Preschool children are like little scientists – they are curious about the world around them.  Every day is a new exploration for knowledge and growth.  They want to know why clouds move and how spiders make webs and how a tiny seed can make a giant sunflower or why it rains.  These ideas are all science and nature-related  themes that are appropriate for the early childhood education curriculum.  

Young children may not be able to process the information completely and are satisfied with very simple and basic answers but exposing them to these concepts will build the foundation for a deeper understanding of science in the world as they grow and mature.  Being aware of insects and plants and weather and animals is the first building block of knowledge upon which more building blocks will be stacked.  Knowledge comes in baby steps as children mature and their cognitive abilities grow.  

Implementing a Science Corner or Science Center into your program, classroom or home is not difficult to do.  Over time you will see the value in it as the children are repeatedly drawn into this area to explore, learn and discover new things. Choose a corner of the room  or special area that has a window nearby, if possible.  You can place a small table in this area or put up a few shelves or countertop type of setup.  Add a few small chairs.  The first things to gather are some related books.  A small collection will do.  Picture books help children to visualize concepts.  Include age appropriate books related to the weather, dinosaurs, baby animals, gardening and plants, insects, planets and the solar system, color, sounds, and more.

Add some items that the children can touch and explore.  You want this to be a hands-on center.  Magnifying glasses are great for looking at rocks up close or to see a leaf in great detail or an insects eyes. During a Self-Awareness Unit you can show children how amazing their fingerprints are or the bumps on their tongues using a magnifying glass!  

Children will bring the outdoors inside – that’s what they do and they need permission to do that.  They enjoy rocks, leaves and finding treasures such as acorns and pinecones and broken Robin’s eggs.  Allow them to add these special things to the Science Corner so they can have some ownership and pride in participating.  

Have a few empty bug jars handy so the children can collect their findings from outside and look at them inside.  An ant, a caterpillar, a worm or a ladybug will fascinate a child who has the opportunity to hold it and view it safely without fear.  Add some magnets and things that are attracted to them (paper clips, etc).  Things that make noise such as a bell or wind chimes can also be added and will provide a sensory component. Adding different textures such as sandpaper, tin foil, fur, or ice can be explored when you are working on a theme about the ‘Five Senses.’

Include some measuring spoons and cups, rulers, a kitchen scale, rubber bugs, a kaleidoscope, flashlight, spinning tops, tweezers, thermometer,  a prism, a small mirror,  a cloth or plastic measuring tape, fresh flowers, pencils and paper for drawing and whatever else comes along that is related to science and nature.  Change the items out periodically and rotate with new items to keep it fresh and interesting to the children.  The ideas are endless.  The questions that these items inspire in preschoolers will also be endless and can lead to a variety of activities and lesson plans.




Have some live plants that children can water – teach them how often and how to do it.  Plant some seeds and watch them grow.  To eliminate jealousies over who gets to water the plants have this be the privilege of the ‘Child of the Week’ or ‘Student of the Week’.  Along with live plants you may want to add a live ‘pet’.  Some easy to care for pets include goldfish, hermit crabs, a frog or two, a hamster or a small lizard. Collecting some tadpoles from the local stream is a great learning activity.  You can get all the information you’ll need about that activity by just going online and searching. These things make your Science Corner come alive so to speak.  Children learn by observing and taking care of their pets.  Allow them to vote on a name for the pet and maybe even take turns taking it home, if parents agree of course.  If living things are not an option then pretend ones will do. Stuffed animals and realistic looking rubber bugs can be bought at most toy stores.  



A Science Corner will also create opportunities for additional curriculum ideas.  For example: if a child finds a worm on a rainy day or when digging in the garden and wants to know more you can create an entire lesson on the topic of WORMS!  Here are some activity ideas:

Dance:  Wiggle like a Worm while dancing to silly music.
Game: Find the W around the room.  Cut out some W’s and hide them around the classroom and see who can find them and  then count them (math).  
Art: String Paintings – dip strings into paint and drag it across paper for wiggly designs.
Letters: W is for worm – practice making the letter W in several ways. One way is to finger-paint it, another is to trace it in salt or shaving cream or pudding. And yet another way is to trace it into the palm of each others hands or on the child’s back (add a tickle!)
Snack: Have gummy worms for a treat or have watermelon for W.  
Math: Another extension of the watermelon is to glue ten seeds onto a paper and count them. Label the paper: ‘My Watermelon Seeds for W’ or something similar.  
Literacy:  Read a book about worms and why they are important.  
Science: Make a Worm Farm!  

Preschool lesson plans can be created for anything that sparks an interest in the children while they explore the Science Corner.  Another way to grab their interest is to place the supplies needed for a special experiment or activity in the Science Learning Center before the children arrive.  They will be curious when they see something new!  They will naturally ask and want to know what the supplies are for.  

Mixing Colors! Maybe you are doing a unit or theme on color and you place a few new eye droppers and a box of food coloring (empty of course!) in the Science Center.  That will lead the children to the main table where you will all perform the experiment of mixing colors with eye droppers and water to create new colors.  You can extend the activity by giving the children coffee filters to drop the colors onto to create a beautiful butterfly. Here is a link to this craft activity: http://www.crafts-for-all-seasons.com/coffee-filter-butterfly.html

Living Pets! You could place a new container of fish food in the Science Center and see who finds it first before introducing the newest class pet (a goldfish!)  Kids love surprises and nothing more than a living thing to call their own.  

Planting Seeds! Maybe it is time to plant a small garden – you could have some seed packets in the science corner which will lead the children to planting the seeds – that is an entire curriculum unit in itself but you can see how a small idea can grow into a big learning lesson for children. Or it can be simplified into just planting seeds for a Mother’s Day gift.  

Cooking! You can put a box of brownie mix on the Science table to hint that you will be baking today – there are lots of science and math concepts found in that activity as well.  A new kite? Yep – a wind and weather unit.  Everything has the potential to become a lesson in the preschool world!

For the Birds! What will they guess if they find a new bag of birdseed in the science corner?  A bird unit!  Backyard bird feeders are a great way for children to observe nature in action.  Add a few pair of binoculars to Science Corner so the kids can observe the birds from a distance when they feed.  In this unit children can take responsibility for filling the feeder.  They will learn the names of common birds in your area.  Going on a bird hunt becomes an adventure when your little ones are searching for birds and nests in your neighborhood trees.  They can count the birds, color pictures of birds, do birdseed art or craft activities, make pinecone bird feeders, read books about birds, sing songs about birds, and much more.  Ask the children what will happen if they plant some of the bird seed?   Find out by planting the bird seed! If you are really ambitious there is a very interesting program called ‘The Great Backyard Bird Count’ that you and the children can get involved in.  The website is www.GBBC.com It is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds and has a website full of interesting links.

Here is another example on how to extend an idea or science and nature theme into all of the preschool curriculum areas.

Zoo Animals (or substitute Farm Animals)

Field Trip
: Visit a Zoo or Petting Farm or local Veterinarian (or invite one to visit!)
Art: Make paper bag puppets of lions, tigers, giraffes, etc.
Dramatic Play: Face paint the children and create  zoo cages with streamers from ceiling to floor in the corners of the facility.  Give the children yarn tails.
Music: Dance around as animals to some Zoo or animal songs.
Snack: Animal Crackers or eat Zoo Food (green leaves such as spinach or lettuce and fruits cut into small pieces.
Large Motor Skills: Play a game of ‘Monkey See Monkey Do’ (Simon Says)
Reading / Literacy: There are many books available about Zoo animals to read or make your own experience book based on the field trip to the Zoo.  Add photos you take at the Zoo and have it laminated.  The children can also take turns sharing it at home with their families.
Math: While at the Zoo have the children count how many zebras or  and ask how many legs do you see?  How many ears are there in the giraffe exhibit? How many penguins are there?  Write the answers down and take a picture – you can create a counting book later that the children will love to read over and over – “Our Day at the Zoo”.  (Make sure you take pictures of the children too – as they love to read about themselves!)




You get the idea?!  Anything can become an extended lesson in the preschool curriculum because one thing leads to another and it’s all related somehow.  Ask yourself how you can use your ‘main theme idea’ in the areas of art, math, movement, reading, writing, music, science, nature, etc.  Then let the children explore these activities in their special Science Corner and you will be amazed at how they are drawn into the world of science and nature at such a young age!

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The Journey to College Starts Early (Preschool)

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This video from the Harlem Children’s Zone shows the importance of Early Childhood Education Programs.

The Harlem Children’s Zone believes that education should begin before kindergarten. Watch this video to learn about our Early Childhood Program, which includes The Baby College, The Three-Year-Old Journey and the Harlem Gems pre-school programs.

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Dramatic Play for Preschoolers – Darth Vader Super Bowl Commercial

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This SUPERBOWL 2011 Volkswagen commercial was a favorite! It shows the power of a preschooler at play. Young children love to play dress-up and pretend that they are someone else. Imaginative play allows them to ‘try on’ adult roles that may seem scary and overpowering to them in their small world.

As children play they express their thoughts, fears, feelings, and ideas with language. Through the use of language they practice social skills, negotiating and cooperative  skills, and conflict resolution techniques  with other children and teachers.  They draw on past experiences to solve problems and develop an  understanding of new concepts.

This commercial shows a little boy in full dramatic play mode where he truly believes that he has power like his super hero Darth Vader. Having a dress-up or housekeeping corner in your preschool or early childhood setting is an important part of your program. Fill it with costumes and adult sized items such as hats, shoes, capes and props in addition to child-sized items including dishes and tools, baby dolls and community helper outfits. To keep it interesting rotate items out each month and put new things in – keep changing it so the children can explore as many roles as possible. One day they may want to be a doctor and the next perhaps a construction worker like dad. The dramatic play area is also a great Rainy Day PreK activity for kids!

Enjoy the commercial again !!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R55e-uHQna0


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The Importance of Early Childhood Education

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The Importance of Early Childhood Education

By Dr. David Carey
The Importance of Early Childhood Education

The best predictor of a good ending is a good beginning. The old adage is a true today as when it was first uttered so long ago that no one can clearly say who first spoke those words. When it comes to the education of young children this proverb has such tremendous relevance that it is hard to overstate its importance. All learning and life experience is moulded by what happens to the child in the early years of his or her life. The influence of the family is of major importance but the influence of the educational opportunities offered to young children is just as powerful and, in some ways, more powerful. For it is the impact of early childhood education that determines the attitude a child will take to formal schooling at primary or secondary level.

The world today is a troubled place. We seem to be getting better at hating one another. We seem less and less able to accept people who are different from us. In a world riddled with violence, crime, bullying, chaos and unpredictability we have to ask some important questions. Why is it that some children

Do not become violent?

Do not become bullies?

Do not become depressed?

Do not loath themselves and others?

Do not despair and give up on life?

These may not be the most profound questions being posed in today’s world but they are among the most important. Where can we turn to discern the answers to these questions? What do we know that can help us unpack the issues embedded in them and come to a vision of how to raise and educate young children?

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The answers to these and other questions about children are emerging from new research about how the human brain grows and develops. Although we are a long way off knowing exactly who we can prevent violence and depression we have learned a good deal about how to foster the brain’s potential as an organ to help children grow to become contributing and productive members of society. Before we explore some of the implications from this research we need to briefly review the five areas of development that all children pass through during childhood.

Understanding Child Development

There are five areas of development that children undergo as they grow to be young adults. These steps appear in a rather predictable sequence, one after the other. They are not like steps of a ladder leading to higher and higher levels. Rather, they are like a spiral of stages through which a child cycles endlessly as they grow and mature. At some point the highest level of attainment may not be reached in a given area but that does not mean the child cannot progress to other areas of the spiral.

The five areas of child development are:

Physical

Intellectual

Linguistic

Emotional

Social

They can be easily remembered by the use of the rather unfortunate acronym “PILES”.

Physical Development

This area of child development is no doubt the easiest to understand and observe. Physical development includes: gross motor skills, fine motor skills, motor control, motor coordination and kinaesthetic feedback. Let’s explain each of these briefly.

Gross motor skills are those movements of the large muscles of the legs, trunk and arms.

Fine motor skills are the movements of the small muscles of the fingers and hands.

Motor control is the ability to move these large and small muscles.

Motor coordination is the ability to move these muscles in a smooth and fluid pattern of motion.

Kinaesthetic feedback is the body’s ability to receive input to the muscles from the external environment so the person knows where his body is positioned in space.

Intellectual Development

This area relates to the level of intelligence of a child in general and to the various aspects of intelligence that influence overall level of general ability. Among these many aspects are:

Verbal skills-our ability to communicate with words our ideas, attitudes, beliefs, thoughts and emotions.

Non-verbal skills-our ability to use visual and spatial-perceptual skills to interpret the world around us.

Attention span-the ability to sustain a focus on a stimulus for a sufficient period of time to interpret it and understand it.

Concentration-our ability to utilise attention to juggle stimuli into various permutations as necessary to analyse it accurately.

Visual-motor skills-the ability to coordinate the movements of the eyes and hands to manipulate objects effectively.

Visual-perceptual skills-the ability to analyse stimuli visually without necessarily manipulating them manually.

Memory-can be auditory or visual (or even kinaesthetic as in the case of remember dance steps) and can be divided into some important sub-types:

– Immediate recall-ability to hold input long enough to recall it straight away if required to do so

– Short-term memory-ability to hold input over a longer period of time, perhaps minutes or hours

– Long-term memory-ability to store input and recall is well after it has been perceived, perhaps days or months, even years later

Linguistic Development

Linguistic development refers to language usage. Like other areas of child development it can be divided into sub-types.

language-our ability to understand spoken language when we hear it

Expressive language-our ability to use spoken language to communicate to others

Pragmatic language-the ability to understand humour, irony, sarcasm and know how to respond appropriate to what another has said or asked as well as know when to wait and listen

Self-talk-the ability to use internal, silent language to think through problems, cope with difficulties and postpone impulses

Reasoning-the ability to think through problems, usually with self-talk but at other times aloud, create plans of action using words

Creative thinking-although not strictly a linguistic function I include it here because many people use language creatively, in new and inventive ways (e.g. Joyce, Beckett)

Emotional Development

This aspect of development, along with social development, is probably one of the most underrated but yet most important aspects of learning how to live in the world. No matter how excellent intellectual, physical and linguistic development may be we are doomed to live lives of frustration and difficult if we have not gained satisfactory emotional development. It includes:

Frustration tolerance-the ability to cope effectively when things do not go the way we want or expect

Impulse control-the ability to think before we act and not do everything that comes into our head
Anger management-ability to resolve conflict without recourse to verbal or physical violence

Inter-personal intelligence-understanding the attitudes, beliefs and motivations of others

Intra-personal intelligence-understand our own attitudes, beliefs and motivations

Social Development

Sharing-knowing how to ask to use the materials that belong to another

Turn-taking-knowing when it is your turn to do something and when to ask if you can do it

Cooperation-the skills of working with others towards a group goal of task
Collaboration-the ability to communication your input in a meaningful way when working with others.

gain it is necessary to repeat that emotional and social development play a hugely important role in our ability to live lives of dignity and respect. They also largely determine how well we will get along with workmates, bosses and loved ones including life-partners.

When we recognise that all children pass through each area of development we design educational programme for them that are developmentally appropriate. Most pre-schools have done just that. Unfortunately many early years settings succumb to pressure and push children towards academic goals and objectives, sometimes almost obsessively. Indeed, the curriculum in our junior and senior infant classes is largely developmentally inappropriate. It is far too teacher and parent-centred and far too little child-centred. Regardless, appropriate or inappropriate, it is not enough to focus on child development alone in our work with young children. We must begin to recognise the inborn potential locked within the child’s brain.

The Human Brain

Locked inside the brain are the potentialities that make us human. We are born with the potential for:

Love    Hate

Patience   Mistrust

Tenderness   Violence

Hope    Despair

Trust    Suspicion

Dignity    Corruption

Respect   Revenge

It is the responsibilities of adults to unlock the positive potentialities of the brain and prevent the negative from appearing.

All educational experiences of children in the early years, indeed all educational experiences of children across the entire school years, must place an emphasis on releasing the positive potential that lies within the brain. Recent brain research, much of it conducted by Dr. Bruce Perry in Texas, has illuminated six core strengths, each of them related to brain growth and development that must be a focus in development appropriate educational programmes for young children.

The Six Core Strengths

Bruce Perry and his colleagues at the Child Trauma Academy in Texas have identified six strengths that are related to the predictable sequence of brain growth and development. These six strengths, if nurtured and fostered appropriately, will help a child grow to become a productive member of society. They are:

Attachment

Self-regulation

Affiliation

Attunement

Tolerance

Respect

Attachment

The first of the six core strengths occurs in infancy. It is the loving bond between the infant and the primary caregiver. Early attachment theorists’ conceiver of the primary caregiver as the mother but it is now recognised that it could as well be the father, grandparent or any loving person. The primary giver, when providing consistent and predictable nurturing to the infant creates what is known as a “secure” attachment. This is accomplished in that rhythmic dance between infant and caregiver; the loving cuddles, hugs, smiles and noises that pass between caregiver and infant. Should this dance be out of step, unpredictable, highly inconsistent or chaotic an “insecure” attachment is formed. When attachments are secure the infant learns that it is lovable and loved, that adults will provide nurture and care and that the world is a safe place. When attachment is insecure the infant learns the opposite.

As the child grows from a base of secure attachment he or she becomes ready to love and be a friend. A secure attachment creates the capacity to form and maintain healthy emotional bonds with another. Attachment is the template through which we view the world and people in it.

Self-Regulation

Self-regulation is the capacity to think before you act. Little children are not good at this, they learn this skill as they grow if they are guided by caring adults who show them how to stop and think. Self-regulation is the ability to take note of our primary urges such as hunger, elimination, comfort and control them. In other words, it is the ability to postpone gratification and wait for it to arrive. Good self-regulation prevents anger outbursts and temper tantrums and helps us cope with frustration and tolerate stress. It is a life skill that must be learned and, like all the core strengths, its roots are in the neuronal connections deep inside the brain.

Affiliation

Affiliation is the glue of healthy human relationships. When children are educated in an environment and facilitates positive peer interactions through play and creative group learning projects they develop the strength of affiliation. It is the ability to “join in” and work with others to create something stronger and more lasting than is usually created by one person alone. Affiliation makes it possible to produce something stronger and more creative than is accomplished by one alone. Affiliation brings into the child’s awareness that he or she is not an “I” alone but a “We” together.

Attunement

Attunement is the strength of seeing beyond ourselves. It is the ability to recognise the strengths, needs, values and interests of others. Attunement begins rather simply in childhood. A child first recognises that I am a girl, he is a boy. Through the early years of education it becomes more nuanced: he is from India and likes different food than I, she is from Kenya and speak with a different accent than I. Attunement helps children see similiarities rather than differences because as the child progresses from seeing different colour skin and different ways of speaking he or she begins to recognise that people are more similar than different. That brings us to the next core strength.

Tolerance

When the child develops the core strength of attunement it learns that difference isn’t really all that important. The child learns that difference is easily tolerated. Through this learning the child develops the awareness that is difference that unites all human beings. Tolerance depends on attunement and requires patience and an opportunity to live and learn with people who at first glance seem “different”. We must overcome the fear of difference to become tolerant.

Respect

The last core strength is respect. Respect is a life-long developmental process. Respect extends from respect of self to respect of others. It is the last core strength to develop, requires a proper environment and an opportunity to meet a variety of people. Genuine respect celebrates diversity and seeks it out. Children who respect other children, who have developed this core strength, do not shy away from people who seem different. An environment in which many children are grouped together to learn, explore and play will foster the core strength of respect.

How the Brain Grows

The brain grows from the bottom to the top. Each of the core strengths is related to a stage and site of brain growth. In infancy attachment bonds are acquired and lay down emotional signals deep within the brain. At the same time the brain stem is seeing to it that bodily functions can be self-regulated. Later on in childhood the emotional centres of the brain come under increasing control so temper tantrums disappear and the child controls their emotional life. In mid-childhood the child’s brain begins to develop the capacity to think and reflect on the external environment. It is at this stage when the frontal areas of the brain begin to mature and it is at this stage in brain growth when the core strengths of affiliation, attunement, tolerance and respect can mature as well.

The Classroom and the Brain’s Core Strengths

The education of young children must be undertaken with the core strengths in mind. Classrooms where there is peace and harmony among a wide variety of children will create opportunities for affiliation, tolerance and respect to develop. These classroom must be characterised by play, creative exploration of objects, lessons which are activity-based not teacher-lectured. There must be challenge to the brain in the form of innovative lessons and teaching methodologies. Cooperative learning activities must be part of the school day. The classroom should occasionally consist of an opportunity to engage in cooperative, mixed-ability groupwork. There must be an opportunity for long-term, thematic projects to be explored. The teacher should be a guide, always teaching with the core strengths in mind, always observing children and noticing which of them need more structure and guidance as they grow through the core strengths. The teacher must also be a person the children perceive as predictable and caring, patient and kind; a person who will not obsessively focus on mistakes.

Whose Responsibility is It?

We have learned that the child’s brain grows in a predictable sequence and associated with this growth are six core strengths for healthy living in the world. Every child is born with a brain possessing the potential to full develop these core strengths. However every brain must have an opportunity to interact with a classroom and home environment that facilitates the development of these strengths. It is the responsibility of adults, particularly parents and teachers to get it right.

David J. Carey, Psy.D.
297 Beechwood Court
Stillorgan
Dublin, Ireland
http://www.davidjcarey.com

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Early Childhood Curriculum : Water Play Activity Ideas

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I have to do a school project for my final grade in an Early Childhood Curriculum class. The theme is basically anything to do with water play, and it is geared toward infants and toddlers and preschoolers. Does anyone have any suggestions for educational, fine motor, discovery-science, ABC activities, block activities, or art activities having to do with water play?  Also, I have to come up with 2 weeks worth of book titles  (so 10 books total). Does anyone know of any water themed books for infants and toddlers? Thank you 🙂 🙂 your advice is much appreciated! (See replies below!) 


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