Teaching and Learning in the Early Years

By David Whitebread | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 13

In Search of the Elephant’s Child

EARLY YEARS SCIENCE

Penny Coltman

But there was one Elephant—a new Elephant’s Child—who was full of ‘satiable curtiosity’, and that means he asked ever so many questions, (from ‘The Elephant’s Child’ in the Just-So Stories, Rudyard Kipling 1902)

A common response when matters of science are raised during adult conversation is a total shut down. Many of us have an antipathy to the subject founded on hours spent in school laboratories which smelled of coal gas, had walls lined with shelves of unspeakable parts preserved in jars of formalin and a teacher who presented incomprehensible hypotheses attributed to a cavalcade of assorted historical personae.

Happily over the past few years science teaching has emerged from this chrysalis in an almost unrecognisable form. The inclusion of science as a core subject throughout the national curriculum was an initiative which resulted in a national review by early years practitioners. How could we use the prescribed material to enhance the learning of young children, to help them to fit together the jigsaw puzzle of their world, and to promote positive attitudes towards science, its knowledge and methods? As a result of this reappraisal it is becoming rapidly more widely appreciated that science in the early years, including Key Stage 1, can be a springboard for activities which are novel and creative, which stimulate children’s interest and enhance the learning environment.

However to begin to see such opportunities for innovation it is helpful to step outside the national curriculum to consider those skills and qualities which are possessed by successful scientists. These are the attributes for which we can be laying secure foundations in our early years classrooms.

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