Resources that support early childhood science learning may be ideas or lesson plans for specific investigations by children, or be information for educators about children’s learning progressions, research into how children learn, science content information for adults, or an extensive analysis of the state of early science education.
Where do you get the support you need to grow your science teaching skills and knowledge?
Have you used the tops of carrots or the bottoms of celery to grow new leaves? A turnip with stubs of green leaves still present will also continue growing if it is set into a cup of water, just touching the water. Children observe the parts of plants and, through experience, learn that plants need water if (when) the water is used up and the leaves wilt. The turnip “greens” can be harvested with a pair of scissors and fed to worms in the classroom vermicomposting bin or to other “compost critters” in a terrarium. The February 2013 issue of Science and Children has several articles about worms and composting (free to members of NSTA and a small fee for others). I like to keep a turnip on the windowsilll as a winter garden, adding to children’s experience with plants and promoting thoughts of spring gardening.
Learning progressions in science education
If you haven’t yet been introduced to the Next Generation Science Standards for K-12 (NGSS), or just want a refresher, I recommend starting with the NGSS “Appendix E – Progressions Within the Next Generation Science Standards” where you can read about the approach that is “intended to increase coherence in K-12 science education” and learn how less complex ideas explored in early childhood (K-2) build to more sophisticated and difficult concepts appropriate for upper grades. For example, if you wonder what kindergarteners should know about the planets in our solar system, see Earth Science Standards ESS1.A and ESS1.B K-2 progression: “Patterns of movement of the sun, moon, and stars as seen from Earth can be observed, described, and predicted” and begin with having children make observations and drawings of the Moon in daytime for a few minutes each time you can be outside when it is visible. Over several months the drawings will reveal a pattern of the phases of the Moon, a phenomenon to think about as children explore making shadows.
Research into how children (people) learn grounds the 3 dimensional structure of the NGSS—science or engineering practices, a core disciplinary idea, and a crosscutting concept. These two books are part of the research behind the NGSS. They are available at no cost online and can be easily searched online or downloaded.
National Research Council. 2000. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/9853
National Research Council. 2007. Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/11625
Science content information for adults
When talking about science phenomenon with children I may find myself wondering about it longer than the children are interested. Other times they ask questions I don’t have answers to. On these occasions I turn to resources meant for people older than 8 years old. Sometimes a non-fiction book in the children’s section of the library provides the additional information in language that is easy to understand. See the books listed in the NSTA Recommends pages to find books with accurate, engaging science content. See also the lists of just the Outstanding Science Trade Books, chosen by a book review panel appointed by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and assembled in cooperation with the Children’s Book Council. The gorgeous book covers and informative descriptions will help you choose the books you need.
Other NSTA resources for adult learning include the “SciPacks” in the Do-it-yourself Learning section of the Learning Center or the “Science 101” columns from Science and Children. Some resources are free but many require membership or a small fee. See other resources listed in on the page Books & Resources: NSTA Initiative for Learners 0–5.
Transforming the Early Education Workforce: A Multimedia Guidebook is an online resource from New America about the National Research Council’s 2015 report, Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8 which explores the “science of child development, looks at implications for the professionals who work with children through examining the current capacities and practices of the workforce, the settings in which they work, the policies and infrastructure that set qualifications and provide professional learning, and the government agencies and other funders who support and oversee these systems.” The report makes recommendations to improve the quality of professional practice and the practice environment for care and education professionals, creating “a blueprint for action that builds on a unifying foundation of child development and early learning, shared knowledge and competencies for care and education professionals, and principles for effective professional learning.”
New America’s guide opens through portals for policymakers, for the workforce, and for higher ed, but has a place to “start from the beginning” to get an overview of this transformation. You can follow a guided path through the multimedia guidebook or jump around, going to the Child Development and Early Learning section, checking the glossary, or viewing videos where they are embedded in the guidebook or out of context.
As early childhood educators we need a wide range of resources! I hope you found something here that is helpful and that you will share other resources you use in a comment below.