Young children, especially between the ages two to eight years learn best through activity based education. The main source of knowledge for these children is through their senses, as they are unable to grasp concepts in an abstract manner. In modeling science lessons for children therefore, it is important to focus the lessons around things that they can experience with their senses such as see, hear, touch and smell. Training children to perceive science in this manner will constantly immerse the children in their everyday world that improves their perceptions of the world. Children are very curious creatures and these years of early development would be a perfect time to introduce them to science and initiate their love for science through investigative means.
Further, children are inquisitive creatures in nature, a trait that should be encouraged and nurtured in order to mould their capacity to learn through seeking answers to things they do not understand. A science class for children in the ages, two to eight should be modeled in a manner as it encourages the children to inquire the science aspects of the world that are introduced to them. In the same manner, the teacher should model their lesson in a manner that it asks questions, this way, children invoke their minds and try to relate what they can experience through their senses to the question.
This paper evaluates the learning levels of science in three distinct levels of children, 2 year olds- pre-school, 3-4 year olds, pre kindergarten and 5year olds – kindergarten. The experiment engaged in was a pumpkin evaluation, analysis, and taking of pictures during the analysis. Below are the questions and the topic/ theme engaged with the children.
- What is the theme to this month?
- What does harvesting mean?
- How does a pumpkin grow?
- Where does it grow?
- What does it need to grow?
- What do you think is inside a pumpkin?
- What is on top of a pumpkin?
- ‘What do we need to open a pumpkin?
- Inside the pumpkin: How do the seeds feel like?
- Can you eat the raw inside?
- How many seeds do you think it has?
- What do you see inside the pumpkin?
- What does it feel like?
- What are the roots doing inside the pumpkin?
- What can we do with the seed
The children responded to these questions very differently according to their ages and level of understanding.
Analysis of the age group comprised of two year olds
The two year olds could not respond to the first inquisition, as they are yet to join formal education and learn abstract concepts such as theme. In addition, responded to questions that required knowledge of facts, such as what does harvesting mean, with either a shrug of the shoulder, or ‘I don’t know response’. Questions in the line of sensory and identification responses invoked a lot of interest in the child, questions such as what is on top of the pumpkin? and what do the seeds inside the pumpkin feel like seemed to draw the attention of the children towards the pumpkin and in trying to retrieve the answer from the physical presence of the pumpkin. They were able to draw up some good responses to some of the questions such as ‘it smells awful’ and the seeds feel slimy, the children were able to relate the physical condition of the pumpkin to experiences that they have had previously, in other contexts.
This ability is evidence that children are able to learn and develop an ability to think by drawing analogies and comparisons earlier than they can coherently muster speech. A response that particularly intrigued is the frequency with which different children in this age bracket paralleled the pumpkins inside with orange juice. While the speech to express their selves adequately was lacking in this age group, they seemed exited at seeing the inside of the pumpkin, but could not relate it to much.
Analysis of pre-kindergarten children, 3-4 years old
Analysis of this age group was easier as the children coalesce in class and the activity administered to the group collectively. Concerning interaction with the other children, in course of doing this activity, the children were collaborative with some of them enquiring or even suggesting to their peers what they perceived was the correct response to the various queries. The children displayed an advanced level of use of materials, with most of the children attempting at using the knife to cut open the pumpkin and observe its inside. The knowledge of use of materials showed a development in the thinking capacities of the children. The children were able to respond to the contents of the pumpkin on the inside prior to cutting it open.
This observation showed that a majority of them had come across a pumpkin, or another fruit, and either utilized their memory, (in the case of those who had in previous exposure), or used a generalization technique for all fruits in correctly identifying seeds as the contents inside the pumpkin. While two year olds showed a level of disinterest in relating continuously with any other adult other than their parents, the kindergarten children were able to engage more and enquire on points of interest, or clarify issues they had not grasped.
Analysis of kindergarten children, 5 years old
The children in this age group displayed the most advanced levels of understanding on the experiment. A majority of them could detail the conditions necessary in successful growing of the pumpkin. This level showed a group of children who had a satiated curiosity on experiments such as the pumpkin one and had a good understanding of the workings related to it. They could recognize that the pumpkin seeds were not edible and that the seeds were planted for the propagation of the pumpkin. The children in kindergarten also showed a good sense of counting and made intelligent guesses as to the probable number of seeds that would be in the pumpkin. While the guesses were not the best, they indicated an improved sense for amount and numbers than the pre-kindergarten children. Children in this level displayed a good use of materials with all of them handling the knife knowingly and cutting up the pumpkin. The level of interest in this activity in these children was relatively low in comparison to the preceding age groups.
Summary, observations and conclusion
While the children in the two years old age group showed awe to the subject matter, they were reluctant to interact with foreign individuals and seemed to give their parents preference over instructors. The approach most appropriate to introducing science to an age group such as this is therefore not instruction, but an encouragement to supervised interaction with the subject. In early stages of development, learning is guided by curiosity, which familiarizes the child with the subject at hand in readiness for the instruction phase.
The children in pre-kindergarten also showed a keen interest on the pumpkin, while they favored a non guided exploration into the experiment, they had the occasional comment/ remark to the instructor such as, ‘this pumpkin smells good’. Responses such as these are a subconscious call for attention and a need on clarification, correction or information on the pumpkin. The children also showed a liking for recognition and this proved to motivate them towards making more declarations and observations. Recognition of their efforts served as a good way of introducing them to interactive and guided learning. While they made their proclamations, the teacher would make corrections and additional information that sets the ground for them to taking instruction.
The children aged five/ kindergarten level, showed a good level of self-expression, understanding of basic scientific truths and was well adapted to instruction learning. While the children could take guided examination of the science subjects introduced to them, they also seemed more receptive of interactive learning with the subject. Science learning in this level should be modified to explain what the children already have an idea of in simple terms, and building from the known to the unknown.