Monday, May 26, 2014

Scientific Inquiry: Develop It Naturally!

This summer we plan to bring you several suggestions to help your preschooler develop inquiry skills. It is our belief that these skills are not only necessary to develop scientific minds but they help children retain their natural curiosity and encourage critical thinking skills. And…inquiry skills can become a natural part of your daily routine whether you are a daycare provider, teacher, camp counselor, or family member.

It’s easy to turn a simple walk to a neighborhood playground into a science experience.

One of the keys is to model for children seemingly simple questions such as, “How does it feel to walk on the sidewalk?’ Have children use their senses to describe the hard, bumpy feeling their feet might be experiencing. Children can touch the pavement. Of course, this develops vocabulary, too!

A walk brings a world of opportunity! 
As children’s feet encounter a different surface, encourage their questioning. Hopefully, they will remember some of the questions you modeled and add their own.

This child said his feet sounded different when he walked on the grass. Help children to go deeper with observations by asking more questions like, “Tell me how your feet feel in the grass” or “Tell me why it feels different to walk on the grass than on the sidewalk.”

Model for children the joy of asking questions about seemingly simple things like walking in the grass.
Look at how many inquiry opportunities can happen on a walk.

Asking questions and wondering about the world: trademarks of a scientist! 
This child stopped on his own to feel the pine needles. Without prompting he made predications as to how his feet would feel on this different surface. This is curiosity and critical thinking at an age-appropriate level! When your child (children) does this, positively reinforce questions and descriptions by responding with statements such as, “What a good question. I love the way you wonder about our world!” Help children learn new vocabulary by restating words such as prickly rather than sharp, etc.

Look at all the unique surfaces that happen on a simple walk. By the time you get to a destination, your child may have walked on mulch, through a field, or even on a bridge.

Trip - trap! How do feet feel and sound on a bridge?
You know inquiry skills are building when your child stops before getting on a swing and says, “I wonder how my feet will feel when I am swinging. There will be nothing under them. I think they will feel free!” Inquiry, curiosity, and willingness to predict: skills of a scientist!

What scientific principles will this child explore next? Gravity? 

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