The beginning of science development starts with children building ideas about their world. There are different views about how young children learn about science concepts. The theory theory is when children make up their own beliefs or theories. There is also the belief that children are somewhat “pre-programmed” with information about the world. This belief is call nativist. They believe this because studies have shown that babies as young as 2 to 5 months old naturally understand certain concepts such as objects cannot be in the same space at the same time and they also understand that because an object is hidden doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Studies have shown that babies as young as 6 months can understand the concept of living and non-living things (McDevitt and Ormrod, 2010).
Not all of the ideas and belief children have are accurate; however, as they learn about objects and things, they being to correct and adjust those beliefs. Through the development of cognitive abilities and as their thinking skills improve, they begin using scientific reasoning. This allows them to plan, analyze, and make conclusions. They being to form a hypothesis about something they know, and then test their idea to see if they are correct, much like the scientific method. They begin to focus of what they find out is correct. Sometimes, even presented with accurate information, children, teens, and even adults, make reasons for why their incorrect hypothesis has to be right. In other words, they choose to make excuses to continue their beliefs. This is called a confirmation bias. Even though they confirm new information, they choose to keep their prior belief. (McDevitt and Ormrod, 2010).
When children begin to understand that they can mentally explain and connect scientific concepts, they begin to develop their understanding about science. Children who have developed abstract thinking, understand science concepts more easily because they can picture it in their minds.
Children with disabilities may have a more difficult time learning science. For example, a child with limited eyesight may not be able to see visual changes when doing an experiment.
There also seems to be differences in science development among children due to ethnic and cultural differences. Environments and communities may influence children when they start to form their theories about the world. For example, a child who is raised in a religious family may have different beliefs about the formation of the world than a child who is not from a religious family.
Promoting Development in Science
Science concepts and theory construction in young children can be promoted by offering experiences for the child. Something as simple as constructing a tower of blocks and pushing it over can spark the child’s curiosity and offers the opportunity for the child to think about why and how the blocks fell. Having the child think about why the blocks fell over and discussing the experience with them is a great way for the child to learn. Let the child come up with solutions and ideas. Guide them to the correct reasons and solutions in terms they can understand at their age to help them construct science principles.
As children develop more abstract thinking, they can expand their knowledge about science and scientific concepts. Having children perform experiments, informal and formal, will engage their interest. This can be done in a classroom, but planning activities to do at home or impromptu, unplanned moments can also be excellent opportunities for learning. Allowing them to explain what they see will help them form theories. Provide age appropriate activities and experiments, ask the child to make a hypothesis, and help the child identify cause-and effect. Ask the child questions to promote thinking.
Remember that young children form their own theories about the world and how it works. Let them know its ok to change their beliefs and ideas when they learn new information. Teach them to be open to new ideas and, by letting them be hands on and have fun, they will enjoy learning science.
Photo borrowed from: http://blog.sciseek.com/2008/12/19/how-to-help-your-kids-love-science/