Science Centers for Preschoolers

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					Science Centers for Preschoolers
Play Based Science Centers Best for Preschoolers
Preschoolers learn best through play and investigation. Instead of performing structured
science experiments, preschoolers need time and materials to try out ideas on their own.
The key to setting up educational science centers for preschoolers is to choose materials
that allow for a variety of activities.

Preschool Science Centers - It's about "DOING"
When choosing materials for a science center, it helps to know a little about what
preschoolers like to do. Preschoolers like to sort, dig, cut, roll, dump, pour, stir, shake, pile,
scoop, build and basically see how they can cause change in their world. This helps
preschoolers learn how the world works. Preschool science centers should inspire children
to "do something" with their hands.

Preschool Science Centers - It's about "CHOICE"
Two children can be using a science center at the same time and experimenting in
completely different ways. The teacher's job is to set the stage for investigation and the
child's job is to use the materials to investigate. Preschoolers working with self selected
supplies from a science center engages children more than sitting down a group of
preschoolers together to all do the same science activity at the same time. Besides, with a
science center, there are many possibilities of activities to do with the materials.

Examples of Play Based Science Centers for Preschoolers
Exploring Ramps:Adults set out toy cars and items for preschoolers to create ramps: cookie
sheets, cutting boards, etc. and blocks or other items which can be stacked to elevate one
end of the flat surface (cookie sheet, cutting board, large book).
Nature Investigations:Adults choose a nature item or nature items for children to investigate
and set out tools and supplies for exploring the nature item. Two sunflowers in a vase and
one sunflower out of the vase can keep children busy with the right science tools. Large
plastic tweezers can be used for children to pull out the seeds in the middle of the
sunflower. (Adults need to make it clear that the flower on the table is for pulling seeds). A
magnifying glass, magazine or calendar pictures of sunflowers, paint chips to match the
colors in the sunflower and small bowls, ice cube trays or egg cartons for sorting offer
several ways to learn about sunflowers. The same tools can be used to investigate apples,
pumpkins. corn and other fall items for a science center.
Outdoor Dirt Exploration: Adults fill tubs with different types of earth: sand, black garden soil
and pea gravel and add cups or scoops to each tub. Plastic tubs, sieves, funnels, cars, a
sand wheel and other sand box type toys along with paint chips in earth colors will inspire
preschoolers to explore the earth in different ways.

Importance of writing in the science classroom:
Mastery of scientific concepts is inextricably linked with effective communication. Novel
experiments and new discoveries made by scientists reach the wider community and gain
greater visibility through written documents in the scientific journals. Good science writing
skillsinclude usage of appropriate scientific terminology, demonstration of clarity of thought
and expression, logical reasoning, ability to describe the results of experimental findings
qualitatively and quantitatively, formulation of ideas and drawing of conclusions supported
with sufficient data and evidences. The writing needs to be in an objective, precise and
logical manner.
   ScienceFix: RAFT Writing Prompts for Science
      A good site to get ideas about science writing prompts for science writing for a definite
   The write approach: integrating writing activities into your teaching
      The importance of writing within the context of all disciplines and some good ideas for
      science writing
Common writing practices in the science classrooms
Normally, in the science classrooms, common writing experiences of the students include
taking notes dictated by the teacher or written on the board, answering worksheets, tests or
exam questions and writing formal lab reports or essays. However, these, though essential
components of the educational system do not trigger thinking and alone cannot provide
meaningful prospects for the students to improve or build the writing skills within the context
of the science disciplines. Hence the onus lies on thescience teachers to design written
assignments which will stimulate creative and critical thinking, a crucial part of science
education. The best practices will be to consistently integrate informal free-writing activities
into the science classrooms while delivering the lessons. These writing assignments will
yield enormous benefits for both the student and the teacher community.
10 useful ideas to integrate writing into the science classroom
After doing some research and thinking in this line, I came up with the following ideas of
amalgamating writing with the science teaching. Some of these are tried and tested in real
classrooms and gave great student response.
1. „Open-ended question‟: Begin or end the class with an open-ended question. Let the
students know that „open-ended questions‟ can have more than one possible answer, which
will reflect their original thoughts and ideas and in most cases no answer is considered
wrong. In this way, even the quiet and less confident students will get involved in active
learning and make an effort to pen down their ideas. Examples:
   After a biology lesson on plant growth and development with the seventh graders, you
      could ask, “How would you explain photosynthesis to a class of fourth graders?”
    After introducing a new topic, such as periodic table you could pause and ask, “What
     do you think is the relevance of this topic in real life?”
    Before starting a new topic, you could ask them to write what they already know about
     the topic.
      You can think of questions starting with, “Why do you think……?” or “How do you think
       …………?” Key words such as describe, explain, compare, explore or predict can help
       create the context for an open-ended question. Open-ended questions, if relevant to
       the content of learning will stimulate productive thinking.
2. „Compare and contrast using Venn diagrams”: Scientific proficiency often requires the
skill to distinguish between different processes, concepts and to compare and contrast
between various phenomena and organisms. You could ask your students to compare and
contrast between two different processes using Venn diagrams. Encourage them to use
coloured pens. Examples:
  Compare and contrast between concave and convex lenses using a Venn diagram.

    Write down the differences and similarities between alkali metals and halogens using a
     Venn diagram.
 3. “Create science cartoon strips”: Have students develop creative thinking skills
through this writing activity. Examples:
  After discussing the earlier models of atomic structure, you could ask, “Create a comic
     strip bringing out the conversation that might have took place between J.J. Thomson
     and Ernest Rutherford”
    Draw cartoon strips to show the step-by-step development of a frog from tadpole
    After teaching a chemistry lesson of elements, compounds and mixtures and
     discussing various methods of separation of mixtures you could ask, “Imagine that you
     are alone in an island surrounded by sea on all sides. You are thirsty and need water
     for drinking. You could only manage to find a kettle with a lid and spout, a matchbox
     with a few matchsticks, a knife, a piece of cloth, a copper wire and a plastic bottle.
     Draw cartoon strips to show how you will convert sea water into drinking water.”
    Science Cartoons Plus -- The Cartoons of S. Harris
     The cartoons of S. Harris, covering a wide range of subjects, including science
     (biology, chemistry, physics, et al.), medicine, psychology, the environment (including a
     new book on global warming), sociology, religion, business and the economy, art.
4. “Analyze illustrations, graphs and diagrams‟: Collect some relevant illustrations,
graphs, diagrams, charts or tables from the internet, news magazines or any textbook and
ask them to analyze in a few sentences. Provide some guided questions to maximize
results. Examples: Analyze the following graph:
  What type of graph is shown?

    What does the graph represent?
    What is on the x-axis?
    What is on the y-axis?
    What are the units on the axes?
    What is the numerical range of the data?
    What kind of patterns/trends can you see in the data?
    How do the patterns you see in the graph relate to other things you know?
5. „Sort into groups‟: As you begin or end the class, list some words on the board, that are
relevant to the content and ask them to classify the words into two or more groups and
mention the basis of their classification. Examples:
  Randomly write the names of 15-20 elements on the board and ask, “Classify these
     elements into two groups and mention the basis of your classification”
    Randomly write the names of some organisms and ask, “Classify these organisms into
     three groups and mention the basis of your classification”
6. „Explain the relationship between key terms‟: After completing a lesson, you could
write some key words related to the recently taught topic on the board. Ask them to explain
the relationship between the words or meaningfully connect the key words in a few
sentences. Examples:
  Give a list of key words: atom, cation, anion, electron, oxidation, reduction. Ask them to
     briefly explain the connection between all these words using theknowledge they have
     acquired during the lesson.

 7. „During lab sessions‟: Before a lab demonstration, ask, “predict what will happen when
………………” questions. During a lab demonstration, make them write detailed
observations in their own words and after the experiment, let them draw inferences from the
observed data. During the lab session, you could ask,
  “What would you expect to see if …………. is replaced by ………….?

    “What would you expect to see if …………. is heated?
    Design questions by changing the conditions of the experiment or by changing different
8. „During multi-media lessons‟: When you plan your lessons to show some relevant
video clips or slide presentation to your students, get them involved in brief writing activities,
so that they concentrate and make an effort to absorb what they see. For example: After the
lesson on radioactivity, you would like to show them You Tube videos on Chernobyl disaster
and Nagasaki/Hiroshima atomic bomb explosion. Ask questions such as,
   “What are the significant differences between the two disasters?”

    “How can we avoid such disasters in future?”
    You could also ask them to simply write the summary of the videos and identify the „big
     idea‟ in a few sentences.
9. „Using science news articles‟:Providing opportunities to read science news article
associated with the topic being taught in the classroom will help students connect to the real
world issues. Have students write a short evaluation of the article, provide them some
guided questions so that they can focus on specific aspects of the article. Discuss about
authentic research findings and biased findings based on preliminary research. Tell your
students that as readers, we have the right to critique and question a scientific article if we
think that the results were not supported by sufficient, reliable data. For example you could
  “Do you think the evidences provided in the article are sufficient? Why?”

    “Who do you think will be benefitted the most by this scientific breakthrough?”
    “Write two things you found most interesting about the article”
    “Being a critic, judge whether the scientific results mentioned in the article is truly
     important for mankind and such expensive research should be continued?”
    Science News, Articles and Information | Scientific American
     Latest news and features on science issues that matter including earth, environment,
     and space. Get your science news from the most trusted source!
  Science Daily: News & Articles in Science, Health, Environment & Technology
     Breaking science news and articles on global warming, extrasolar planets, stem cells,
     bird flu, autism, nanotechnology, dinosaurs, evolution -- the latest discoveries in
     astronomy, anthropology, biology, chemistry, climate & environment, computer
 10. „Concept-mapping‟: Ask your students to read a short paragraph from the text book or
any handout provided and have them break down the information into parts and organize
graphically or pictorially using minimum text. Encourage them to use various visual aids,
such as tables, flowcharts, cycles, graphs, venn diagrams, spider web etc. Example:
Benefits for the students and the teachers
Benefits for the students: Ongoing in-class writing assignments have manifold benefits for
the students of different learning styles. The advanced students are hooked as they find the
assignments challenging whereas the withdrawn ones gain confidence as they get frequent
opportunities to write their own ideas without the fear of making a mistake or losing marks.
Relevant writing about what they learn or read in the classroom:
  Compels students to clarify doubts during the writing process

    Allows students to make connections with prior learning
    Encourages students to formulate their own ideas
    Enhances understanding of the science concepts
    Stimulates the higher-order thinking skills
    Strengthens their science writing skills
    Expands their science knowledge
    Helps better retention
Benefits for the science teachers: Brief, well-designed free writing exercises incorporated
within the lesson period will be of immense help to the science teachers. Instead of directly
judging the student by his/her written work, the teachers can guide them towards improved
writing through planned assignments and give individual/collective feedback. The science
  Will get a window into the students‟ understanding of the content taught through their
      written work
    Will get an opportunity to design „student centered‟ activity and encourage active
     learning in the classroom
    Will find the correction load manageable as weekly the notebooks can be collected and
     the feedback given
    Will get a clear glimpse of the students‟ strengths and weaknesses and guide them
     accordingly over a period of time
    Can use these as essential formative assessments in the continuous and
     comprehensive evaluation system
    Can tailor these writing activities according to his/her class size and level
    Will be able to emphasize the importance of writing within the context of science
    Will feel rewarded being able to challenge the advanced, enthusiastic learners as well
     as draw out the quiet students at the same time

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