Science Sarah Shares How Frog Pond Does Science
At Frog Pond Early Learning Center we are committed to teaching children to love the earth and its creatures, to understand their connection to the web of life and their responsibility for helping to take care of the earth. We believe that children learn best by experiencing and exploring, following their own interests. We want to encourage and direct their natural curiosity. We also incorporate in the lessons opportunities to practice emergent science and math skills as well as language development and physical and social skills.
How does this translate into “lessons” for 2 and 3 and 4 year-olds?
First, we look at bugs, snakes, worms and toads with the same wonder, eagerness and care with which we would we would examine a beautiful flower or butterfly. This is not always easy for the teachers, but we try. We teach that all creatures deserve respect and should be handled gently.
When I am with the children I try to help them notice details around them, patterns and cycles of change. I suggest questions we might ask and solicit questions from them. We may or may not answer the questions…the process of asking is important and sometimes it is better for them to find their own answers.
With the youngest children it is usually enough to notice, talk about what we see and reinforce the new language with songs and finger plays. With older children we may extend our observations by measuring (using units they can relate to like hand span, body height, or comparison to familiar objects), sorting and classifying, or looking at things from different view points. (“What would that look like from on top of the slide or upside down?”)
Sometimes we make predictions and test our ideas with experimentation. When a child asked, “What makes garbage stink?” we saved food scraps and grass clippings to watch what happened over a 2 week period. We discovered that wet garbage spoils faster than dry and that food scraps are smellier than grass clippings. After a few days mold and mildew grew…
Hands-on activities and experiments let the children explore with all their senses, with concrete experiences, with repetition and a touch of magic. Simple paint mixing is a classic experiment. Mixing red and yellow always makes orange, no matter how often we try it. If we add blue, something different happens. What if we look through red, yellow and blue cellophane? From there it is just a step to chasing rainbows in the sprinkler on a sunny day.
Pulling apart a dead log, feeling the wood crumble into soil, smelling the damp, earthy smell and discovering the amazing menagerie of “decomposers” that live there (centipedes, slugs, grubs, ants, spiders, shiny black beetles and once, a shrew!) makes the abstract concept of “life in a dead tree” real.
I like to use imagination and pretend play to teach some concepts. With music and tulle scarves we can pretend to be water droplets and experience the water cycle—water flow, evaporation, clouds gathering and rainfall. The rainstorm is very exciting! Walking in the rain and puddle jumping are concrete experiences that help the children to understand the pretend game. With 3-5 year-olds we have “made clouds” by applying ice to a jar of hot water and watching the water vapor condense on the sides. With a younger group we may simply touch the hot water and the ice block to experience hot and cold.
Our pets are important science teachers. The goats, chickens, lizard and hermit crabs feel, smell, sound and act different from people. Still, they need food, water, shelter and space like all animals. They even poop, just like us. Children learn to be gentle rather than rough with the animals, or brave and assertive rather than fearful, depending on their personalities. We have learned some hard lessons about predators and prey, life and death from our pet tragedies.
At Frog Pond we are not merely learning science. We are doing science, with all our senses, with our minds, our imaginations, and our hearts. It’s lots of fun.