Saturday, February 01, 2014

For early childhood educators: a new NSTA position statement on Early Childhood Science Education

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) has adopted a new position statement, the Early Childhood Science Position Statement.  This thoughtful document was inspired by the clamor of early childhood educators looking for guidance informed by research on how to approach science teaching in the preschool years (ages 3-5) before kindergarten.
Educators and families can support 
young children's interest in learning 
about science and engineering concepts.
Drawing on research from the National Research Council, the National Association for the Education of Young Children and others, the NSTA Position Statement on Early Childhood Science Education “… affirms that learning science and engineering practices in the early years can foster children’s curiosity and enjoyment in exploring the world around them and lay the foundation for a progression of science learning in K–12 settings and throughout their entire lives.”
The position statement supports early childhood educators who seek to honor young children’s “capacity for constructing conceptual learning and the ability to use the practices of reasoning and inquiry” at a developmentally appropriate level. Early childhood educators are urged to “take advantage of what children do as part of their everyday life prior to entering formal school settings [because] these skills and abilities can provide helpful starting points for developing scientific reasoning.” The Early Childhood Science position statement complements the position statement on elementary science education adopted by the NSTA Board of Directors in July 2002.
A 1-yr-old exploring water learns
about the properties of liquids
with adult guidance and support.
NSTA identifies six key principals to guide the learning of science by young children. In addition, declarations and recommendations further identify the following, among others, as critical for high quality science learning environments: the nurturing oyoung children’s curiosity; the understanding that everyday play is part of science learning; and supportive educators who are prepared to carefully plan open-ended, inquiry-based explorations.
I am grateful to Cindy Workosky, NSTA Communications Specialist, who spearheaded the effort and the NSTA panel members who wrote the Early Childhood Science position statement, Susan Catapano (Chair), Peggy Carlisle, Christine Chaille, Ingrid Chalufour, Linda Froschauer, Rochel Gelman, Julie McGough, William C. Ritz, Jennifer S. Thompson, and Karen Worth. (See the full list of panel members below.) I thank the NSTA Board of Directors for their forward-thinking action in adopting the work of the panel.
The position statement is a document that will inform my teaching practice and writing. It reminds me to intentionally prepare the environment and experiences to allow children to fully engage with the materials and provide time to talk about those experiences. I can share it with the program directors and school principals I work with to help them understand that science and engineering learning begins in the early years before kindergarten, when children are given multiple opportunities to engage in science exploration and experiences through inquiry. It will guide programs, school districts and states as they write new early childhood science standards and curriculum.
Take a look at the newly issued Early Childhood Science Education Position Statement online or in the February 2013 issue of Science and Children, print out a copy to share with your colleagues and the families of your students, and talk about how it will support and possibly change your teaching.

Panel, NSTA Early Childhood Science Position Statement

Susan Catapano, Chair
Chair and Professor
International Coordinator
Watson College of Education, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Wilmington, NC

Peggy Carlisle (NSTA Board)
NSTA Director, Preschool/Elementary Div.
Gifted Education Teacher, Pecan Park Elementary, Jackson, MS 
Christine Chaille
Professor and Chair, Curriculum and Information
Portland State University, Portland, OR
Ingrid Chalufour
Education Consultant
Brunswick, ME
Linda Froschauer
Field Editor, Science and Children
NSTA Past President
Westport, CT
Rochel Gelman
Distinguished Professor
Rutgers Center for Cognitive Science
and the Psychology Department
Rutgers University, Busch Campus, Piscataway, NJ
Julie McGough
K-3 Primary Teacher
Valley Oak Elementary
Adjunct Faculty, Science Education
California State University, Fresno, Fresno, CA
William C. Ritz
Professor Emeritus, Science Education
Director, "A Head Start on Science"
California State University at Long Beach, Long Beach, CA   
Jennifer S. Thompson (NSTA Council)
NSTA Director, District XVII
K-1 Primary Teacher
Harborview Elementary
Adjunct Faculty, Education
University of Alaska Southeast, Juneau, AK
Karen Worth
Instructor, Elementary Education Department & Department Chair
Wheelock College, Boston, MA

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