Supporting "Little Scientists"
Early childhood educators and primary school teachers explore the world together with the children. The children’s questions open up new perspectives.
Space for exploration
Spaces can be designed at early childhood education and care centres, after-school centres, and primary schools to encourage children to explore and inquire. The size of the space is immaterial!
"The world is your laboratory!" Numerous natural phenomena can be explored using everyday materials such as straws or balloons.
Most children are naturally inquisitive and interested in natural phenomena. With the help of the “Haus der kleinen Forscher” programme, early childhood educators and primary school teachers can continue to develop professionally in order to enhance their ability to foster this natural interest in children in a developmentally appropriate way.
Small events, big insights – everyday life is full of science!
Natural phenomena are part of children’s experiential world: in the morning, the alarm clock rings; toothpaste foams when brushing the teeth; the radio plays music; hot cocoa gives off steam in a mug; on the way to kindergarten children observe flowers that were still closed the day before. Children want, quite literally, to grasp their world and to learn more about natural phenomena. These numerous occasions in the everyday lives of children also lend themselves to use in their education. Children’s questions therefore play a central role in exploration and inquiry.
Facilitation of Learning in Ten Pictures
The card set "Facilitation of Learning in Ten Pictures" clarifies from the perspective of the "Haus der kleinen Forscher" Foundation the importance and the role of early childhood professionals and primary school teachers in facilitating exploration- and inquiry-based learning.
However, the cards are not only suitable for use as information material. They are also an excellent opportunity for self-reflection and can therefore be employed in professional development courses.
What does early childhood science, mathematics, and technology education entail?
The Foundation’s main aim is to promote enthusiasm for learning and to foster problem-solving skills. However, children should not merely learn and reproduce the “correct” explanations for particular phenomena. Rather, they should be accompanied in an inquiry-based exploration process that is oriented towards the scientific method. This process includes the observations, comparisons, and classifications that children use to explore the world around them (see the Inquiry Cycle method).
The Foundation aims to encourage a sustainably positive attitude towards science, mathematics, and technology. Engaging in scientific inquiry not only stimulates curiosity about, and enthusiasm for, natural phenomena and technological questions. It also fosters a number of basic life skills that children need for their journey through life – for example, language skills, social skills, and fine motor skills. Moreover, it enhances children’s self-efficacy and inner strength.
OF THE “HAUS DER KLEINEN FORSCHER” FOUNDATION
A guide to facilitating learning in science, mathematics, and technology
Download PDF (2,8mb)
Are young children capable of scientific reasoning?
Recent findings in developmental psychology show that even preschool children are capable of key aspects of scientific reasoning. They can propose ideas and assumptions, test them by means of their own inquiry activites, and draw initial conclusions. Early childhood education can therefore build on favourable conditions and on the development potential of the children.
How do children learn?
„ A child is not a vase to be filled, but a fire to be lit. “
The Foundation has the following image of the child:
- Children are rich in knowledge and skills.
- Children want to learn.
- Children play an active role in shaping their own education and development.
- Every child is different by virtue of his or her individuality and personality.
- Children have rights.
How can children best be supported in inquiry-based learning?
Education is a social process. Children learn from, and in interaction with, others through encouragement, individual exploration, and joint reflection. Children learn not only from adults, but also from, and in collaboration with, other children. Thus, the pedagogic approach of the Foundation is guided by two pedagogic principles: co-construction and metacognition.
Important tasks when pedagogically accompanying children in inquiry-based learning
- Always build on the children’s prior knowledge
Teachers and educators can gain an insight into children’s thoughts and prior experiences by listening closely to them, by observing them, and by asking them about their individual assumptions.
- Talk to the children
By engaging in dialogue with the children, teachers and educators can help them to take the next step in their cognitive development. Don’t explain things, but rather ask leading questions.
- Encourage the children to reflect
If children develop “false” concepts, for example “the wind comes from the trees,” this shows where they currently stand. The task is to draw their attention at an opportune moment to possible inconsistencies in their concepts – for example, to the fact that wind also occurs in places where there are no trees. In this way, the teacher or educator prompts the children to develop a new theory themselves.
- Give the children (free) space to explore and inquire
Whether it be a shelf full of materials in a corner of a room, an area in your bathroom, or a whole room dedicated to exploration and inquiry, children will use the materials provided to try things out and to develop their own questions. Find ways to provide them with the space they need to experiment.