Academic journal article Science and Children

Acting like Rain: PreK Students Engage in Science Talk and Head outside to Build Earth Science Knowledge and Process Skills

Academic journal article Science and Children

Acting like Rain: PreK Students Engage in Science Talk and Head outside to Build Earth Science Knowledge and Process Skills

Article excerpt

"I'm testing the grass," "I'm testing a toy," "I'm testing my hair." These are just three examples of science talk from preK students "I'm enrolled in a summer science class. These preK students were asked to predict what they thought would happen as they "rained" on various playground surfaces outside. Many students ran immediately to familiar parts of the playground, eager to test their favorite playground features. Some students focused on artificial structures, some focused on more natural components of the playground. Regardless of what they chose, all focused on practices, such as asking questions, planning investigations, and using models, helping these preK students to transition to the practices of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

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Having high-quality early childhood education programs that prepare children for success in school and later years continues to be an ever increasing national priority. While the NGSS do not provide standards for preschool, there are ample opportunities to use the Standards as a guide to prepare students for later science experiences. The science methods and early childhood professors at our university discussed extrapolating from the NGSS to link to national early childhood content standards such as the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes (U.S. Department of

Health and Human Services 2015). This would allow for preK teachers to meet their standards while also supporting the transition at kindergarten to use of the NGSS. When one of us was asked to teach a science lesson for a local preschool class, we identified an opportunity to align both sets of standards into an Earth science lesson for a preK classroom. We examined the NGSS kindergarten standards and compared it to Head Start. In this comparison, we noticed that the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes differed from the NGSS in that they do not focus on specific content (e.g., weather); instead, they focus on scientific reasoning, which could support the NGSS science and engineering practices and crosscutting concepts in later grades.

We used DCI ESS2.D Weather and Climate as a guide to provide a pre-NGSS experience about water/weather. We wanted students to be able to apply the Scientific Reasoning Goals of Head Start. The Scientific Reasoning Goals align with the NGSS science and engineering practices such as Planning and Carrying Out Investigations and Analyzing and Interpreting Data (Table 1). We then used a Learning Cycle approach (Bybee et. al. 2006) to outline our lesson about water.

Shared Book Reading

In addition to the NGSS, we wanted to use shared book reading as a way to engage students in science talk about the day's topic. Shared book reading provides structured guidance for intentional opportunities to talk before, during, and after book reading. Strategies include use of the following: open-ended questions to build background knowledge, reinforcement of target content vocabulary words, use of text to make predictions, and use of target vocabulary words to extend knowledge based on connections to the real world. Shared book reading has been identified as an evidence-based practice leading to positive outcomes most notably related to language development and content-related vocabulary and knowledge (What Works Clearinghouse 2015).

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We recognized the opportunity to use shared book reading strategies for engaging science content knowledge and addressing standards across content disciplines through an integrated lesson plan. Using the book as a hook, we were able to bridge the Early Childhood Literacy Standards while supporting the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in later grades (Table 2, p. 33) in a manner similar to our comparison of Head Start's Scientific Reasoning to the NGSS science and engineering practices (Table 1).

Engage

We began the lesson by stating that we were about to embark on a science adventure about a type of weather. …

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