Natural Science Exploration
We believe that the environmental and subsequent social and cultural change that our students will see in their lifetimes demands that we help them remember to do what is already innate: to care deeply for and be cared for by the natural world and participate fully in the symbiotic relationship that they undeniably have with nature.
At Blue Mountain School, surrounded by 9 acres of woods and trails, our students have the ability to connect with nature in a daily way. Whether practicing yoga outside, having science class in the woods, spending time at their sit spots, or playing at recess, our students are outside throughout the school day. The effect is a shared and strengthened sense of stewardship and care for the natural world. This ethic guides our natural science activities for all classes.
Other Science Exploration
Beyond Natural Science, the Blue Mountain School science curriculum is based on methods recommended by the National Science Teacher’s Association, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and the National Research Council. Our preschool and elementary science programs:
- They are involved in first-hand exploration and investigation
- Inquiry/process skills are nurtured
- Instruction is built directly on the student's conceptual framework
- Content is organized on the basis of broad conceptual themes common to all science disciplines
- Mathematics and communication skills are an integral part instruction
Our belief in the following principles also guide our science programs. At Blue Mountain School, we believe:
Current research shows that young children have the capacity for conceptual learning and the ability to use the skills of reasoning and inquiry as they investigate how the world works (NRC 2007, NRC 2012). For example, their play with blocks, water, and sand shares some science-relevant characteristics. Even young children can learn to organize and communicate what they learn and know the difference between concrete and abstract ideas (Carey 1985). Adults who engage children in science inquiry through the process of asking questions, investigating, and constructing explanations can provide developmentally appropriate environments that take advantage of what children do as part of their everyday life prior to entering formal school settings (NAEYC 2013, p. 17; NRC 2007). These skills and abilities can provide helpful starting points for developing scientific reasoning (NRC 2007, p. 82).
Everyday life is rich with science experiences, but these experiences can best contribute to science learning when an adult prepares the environment for science exploration, focuses children’s observations, and provides time to talk about what was done and seen (NAEYC 2013, p. 18). It is important that adults support children’s play and also direct their attention, structure their experiences, support their learning attempts, and regulate the complexity and difficulty of levels of information (NRC 2007, p. 3). It’s equally important for adults to look for signs from children and adjust the learning experiences to support their curiosity, learning, and understanding.
Young children develop science understanding best when given multiple opportunities to engage in science exploration and experiences through inquiry (Bosse, Jacobs, and Anderson 2009; Gelman, Brenneman, Macdonald, and Roman 2010). The range of experiences gives them the basis for seeing patterns, forming theories, considering alternate explanations, and building their knowledge. For example, engaging with natural environments in an outdoor learning center can provide opportunities for children to examine and duplicate the habitats of animals and insects, explore how things move, investigate the flow of water, recognize different textures that exist, make predictions about things they see, and test their knowledge.
Opportunities to explore, inquire, discover, and construct within the natural environment and with materials that are there need to be provided in formal education settings, such as preschool and early care and education programs through intentional lessons planned by knowledgeable adults. In addition, children need to have opportunities to engage in science learning in informal settings, such as at home with cooking activities and outdoor play or in the community exploring and observing the environment.
To effectively build science understanding, young children need opportunities for sustained engagement with materials and conversations that focus on the same set of ideas over weeks, months, and years (NRC 2007, p. 3). For example, investigating the concept of light and shadows over several weeks indoors and out with a variety of materials and multiple activities will allow children to re-visit and re-engage over time, building on observations and predictions from day to day.
Young children engage in science activities when an adult intentionally prepares the environment and the experiences to allow children to fully engage with materials. The activities allow children to question, explore, investigate, make meaning, and construct explanations and organize knowledge by manipulating materials.
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