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Some people think of science as memorizing facts and esoteric terminology, but a peek inside a Beginning School 4PreK classroom this spring found children using their five senses to observe, explore, and discover the world around them.
"Never underestimate the abilities of a four year old," Beginning School Teacher Isabelle Buhler cautioned, "or they will show you a thing or two about dissecting a daffodil."
Throughout the 4PreK curriculum, children investigate many topics using the five senses. When the daffodil is first introduced as a unit, children are encouraged to use their current vocabulary to describe the color, shape, and size—"It's a little yellow flower that smells green."
The budding scientists in 4PreK document their initial observations by making large, representational paintings. Teachers guide them to collect and organize information as the children's natural curiosity compels them onto the next step.
"We tell the children they are scientists and they need to be very careful using the cuticle scissors and other tools to dissect the flower," Ms. Buhler said. "They love being called scientists and you would be surprised at how methodical and careful they are."
After two weeks of being actively engaged in the practices of reasoning and inquiry, our youngest learners acquire an impressive scientific vocabulary, and respect for the tools and methods. Children label the parts of the daffodil, sort and count the petals, and observe the specimens drying out.
"So you see, we have integrated many things into the study of the daffodil—math, science, art, literacy, and fine motor skills," Ms. Buhler said.
Activities focusing on observation and communication give students ownership of the information, something Ms. Buhler said is demonstrable in children's retention of the vocabulary. "They will correct their parents if they use layman's terms."
Through the process of asking questions, investigating, and constructing explanations, the Beginning School seeks to creates an environment where scientific inquiry becomes a part of everyday life, building foundations for future learning.