Young children are naturally curious, and they have lots of questions about the world around them. Zero to Three shares that these questions are a sign that children are taking an active role in their own learning and developing important communication and critical thinking skills.
To support children’s curiosity and inquisitive nature, we can facilitate the integration of experimentation and questioning during play activities. Experiments give children an opportunity to explore STEM concepts, while utilizing the steps of the scientific method to investigate and explore.
What is the Scientific Method?
The scientific method is a method of research in which a problem is identified, relevant data is gathered, a hypothesis is formulated from this data, and the hypothesis is empirically tested. The job of the scientific method is to tell us if a cause produces an observed effect. These are the types of questions that fascinate young children.
Ducksters, an education website for kids, describes the steps of the scientific method as…
1. Ask a question
2. Gather information and observe (research)
3. Make a hypothesis (guess the answer)
4. Experiment and test your hypothesis
5. Analyze your test results
6. Present a conclusion
The first step is to come up with a question. For example, you might consider presenting a series of objects with the question, Will it sink or float? Next, the children will come up with guesses, or predict which items will sink and which will float. When all of the children have guessed, the group will do experiments to test their theories.
Once you have figured out which items sink and which float, you can discuss the findings with the children. Following up on the experiment with a discussion allows the children to practice language and communication skills as they discuss the results.
Experiments to Try with Young Learners
If you are interested in incorporating the scientific method into the play-based activities in your curriculum, you might want to try the fun experiments below: