Young children are naturally curious
about the world around them, which makes early childhood the perfect time to
introduce the scientific method. Structured hands-on activities that are both
age appropriate and engaging allow children to make observations, form
hypotheses and then test them out and analyze their results.
As our young scientists explore we can
facilitate by asking guided questions and encouraging the use of scientific
vocabulary; being careful to give them plenty of room to explore on their
Often young children become fixated on
a topic like dinosaurs, bugs or trains. Their interests are the perfect
starting point for developing a science unit. These activities can also be chosen
to compliment a unit of study or teach a particular concept. Remember, the goal is not to
present your little scientists with facts about a topic, but to provide them
with opportunities to answer the questions they
have about the topic. Let’s look at the scientific method in action!
The first step of the scientific
process is, to formulate questions. This can be done by creating an, “I Wonder…”
poster. Write all the questions your child has about the topic on the poster.
Then, search for an age appropriate experiment for each question. The
experiments you choose should allow them to discover answers to the questions listed
on their “I Wonder…” poster. If you have decided on an insect unit, then one of
your experiments might answer the question, “Do all bugs have six legs?”
This is where your scientist makes an
educated guess at their question’s answer. Do they think all bugs have six
legs? Make sure to ask your child to support their hypothesis and record their
answers. They may reason that since all people have two legs, all insects must
have six legs. Ask guided questions as needed to help them formulate their
This is the fun part! Guide your child
as they conduct their experiment. To find out if all insects have six legs you
may take your child on an insect hunt in your backyard or a local park and let
them observe the number of legs on each insect they find.
Help your child record their data while
they conduct their experiment. They may take pictures of each bug they find or
fill in a tally chart to record how many bugs they find with six legs and how
many bugs they find without.
Your child may need a little help
learning how to analyze their data. Ask them what conclusion they can draw from
the fact that they have a stack of twenty pictures of insects with six legs and
none without. It’s tempting to answer the questions for them, but this step is
where scientific thinking is really developed, so it’s important for them to
arrive at a conclusion themselves. Often
as your child analyze their data other questions will come up. For example,
they may realize spiders can’t be insects because they have eight legs and
wonder what they are. Make sure to add any new questions to the “I Wonder…”
chart to explore later!
The report is the final step of the
scientific method. This is where your child will show the results of their
experiment and indicate whether or not their hypothesis was correct. They may
write, draw or fill in a graph to show their results. If your child is not yet
writing let them dictate the result of their experiment as you write it under their
picture. It is important to explain that it is ok if their hypothesis was
incorrect and that scientists learn just as much from incorrect hypothesis as
they do correct ones.
To wrap things up congratulate your
child on their wonderful scientific thinking! Happy experimenting!