April 2021 Student Spotlight – Holly Sena

My name is Holly Sena and I’m from Oceanside, New York.  I began my career with children about 20 years ago; however, my love for children started when I was a young child and my mom would babysit children in the house.  I loved helping her with bottles and diapers and playing with the children.  I loved going to the park with them.  I work with infants right now and I have worked with all ages; however, working with infants is my specialty.  I really enjoy all the stages they go through from tummy time to being able to walk and talk and go on to the next class.  My favorite time of day is free play which is tummy time or children playing on the floor with toys or sitting and playing and interacting with each other.  We are busy all day long.  I just love being with them and it is so rewarding when the baby sees me and gives me the biggest smile.  I don’t think any other career measures up to that.  To me, it is not just a job, it is something I love and feel is very rewarding in my life.

I would love to finish my college degree in Early Childhood Education and continue to work with children.  I would definitely recommend ChildCare Education Institute for professional development training to others.  It was a great experience for me and the student support staff, including my Education Coach, were very helpful and encouraging throughout my training.  They made the learning experience a fun and positive one.  The classes I took at CCEI were for the Infant-Toddler Certificate.  I learned so much in this certification program from child abuse to positive guidelines.  The courses were very informative and provided great content for me to use and implement in my classroom right away.  It helped me solidify furthering my career in ECE and pursuing college courses to ultimately teach PreK one day if the opportunity presents itself.  I definitely highly recommend my experience with CCEI to others!

Next Generation Science Standards

Many states’ early learning standards contain a few descriptions of science-related skills that children under the age of 5 should be working toward. It is important for teachers to become familiar with these standards so that they can plan learning opportunities around them and so that they know what to look for as children explore science.

Did you know, that in addition to these state standards, that there is a set of standards called the Next Generation Science Standards?  These standards were developed for K-12 by experts in the fields of education and science. The goal is to prepare children with the skills they will need to be successful when they enter the workforce.

It is a good idea for early childhood educators to become familiar with the skills and concepts children will encounter when they enter elementary school.  You can search the standards by topic and grade level here.

Here are just a few of the science-related skills that are included in the Kindergarten Next Generation Science Standards:

  • Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive.
  • Use a model to represent the relationship between the needs of different plants and animals (including humans) and the places they live.
  • Use and share observations of local weather conditions to describe patterns over time.
  • Ask questions to obtain information about the purpose of weather forecasting to prepare for, and respond to, severe weather.*
  • Plan and conduct an investigation to compare the effects of different strengths or different directions of pushes and pulls on the motion of an object.
  • Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.
  • Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.
  • Communicate solutions that will reduce the impact of humans on the land, water, air, and/or other living things in the local environment.

You can see the rest of the standards and those that were established for children of other grade levels by visiting the Next Generation Science Standards website.

How could you use these standards to inform the decisions you make about science instruction in your program?

April 2021 Newsletter – Strengthening Scientific Thinking: Experimenting & Sharing Results

There is a wide range of science experiments that you can explore in the learning environment. You can find ideas on our Pinterest page. With young children, experiments are likely to be informal and look a lot like play.  For example, a food color mixing activity is an opportunity for children to use observation and prediction skills with minimal guidance from teachers. Other experiments have a series of steps that must be followed in order to achieve the intended outcome of the activity.  Here are a few general categories of experiments that are appropriate for young children:

  • Opportunities to explore cause and effect
  • Sensory bottles with oil and water or other liquids
  • Open exploration of sensory materials
  • Explore sounds using different materials and containers
  • Sink or float activities using different materials each time
  • Experiment with growing plants
  • Experiment to find out what plants need to survive
  • Life cycles with butterflies or frogs
  • Weather-related explorations
  • Observing changes in nature
  • Magnet play
  • Chemical reactions (most common is vinegar and baking soda)
  • Experiments with force, speed, and pressure

Regardless of the experiment type, children should be encouraged to document what they learned. You can transcribe children’s words as part of the documentation. Children might also prefer to draw what they learned or observed.

During experiments, document what you notice the children learning. Take pictures as they explore. Capture moments of discovery. Record the results on video.  All of these items can be shared with families and on social media (with photo release consent) as a way to promote the excellent learning opportunities your program offers. You can add this documentation to children’s portfolios as part of your ongoing assessment process.

What are your favorite experiments to do with children and how do you encourage children to share what they have learned?

For the main article Strengthening Scientific Thinking, CLICK HERE

For the  article Making Observations, CLICK HERE

For the article Asking Questions and Gathering Information, CLICK HERE

For the article Making Predictions, CLICK HERE

April 2021 Newsletter – Strengthening Scientific Thinking: Making Predictions

Predictions are guesses about what might happen in the future. Usually, they are based on prior knowledge or experiences.  During the Scientific Method, scientists make predictions and then design experiments to determine whether their predictions are correct or incorrect.

Remember, in early childhood sometimes children will follow all of the steps of the Scientific Method and at other times, they can just focus on one or two skills.  To encourage more predictions, you must simply ask for them.  Here are just a few, general examples that can be modified to fit different situations:

  • What do you think will happen next?
  • What do you think will happen if we add…?
  • What might happen if we remove X?
  • What changes do you think we will see?
  • What do you think will happen if we move this piece?
  • How many items will fit in this container?
  • How many days will it take to see a change?
  • Why do you think it works that way?
  • What do think we will learn?

These types of questions should be planned as part of group readings and lessons that occur during the day. Teachers should also be on the lookout for teachable moments that could be enhanced through the use of prompts for predictions. Spontaneous predictions often lead to opportunities to design simple experiments to find out if predictions are correct. Be sure to remain flexible enough in your curriculum planning to allow for and encourage these unplanned experiments.

Whenever possible, document the children’s responses so they can refer back to their predictions. You can gather multiple children’s answers on one datasheet, or gather predictions from individual children.

For the main article Strengthening Scientific Thinking, CLICK HERE

For the article Making Observations, CLICK HERE

For the article Asking Questions & Gathering Information, CLICK HERE

For the article Experimenting & Sharing Results, CLICK HERE

April 2021 Newsletter – Strengthening Scientific Thinking: Asking Questions & Gathering Information

Anyone familiar with young children knows they are full of questions.  They are on a quest to understand their world and ask thousands of questions along the way. Encourage children to ask questions by providing novel and interesting experiences to children as described in the section on observation.

Act as a model for how to ask all kinds of questions (who, what, where, when, and why). Remember to ask lots of open-ended questions on top of the normal, closed questions. Open-ended questions (What do you think is happening?) promote critical thinking while closed questions promote general recall and identification (Where do we hang our coats?). Ask questions that are spontaneous as teachable moments arise and planned as you might do when reading a new book to children.

Another way to encourage children to ask questions is to enthusiastically answer the questions they ask.  This might take some amazing acting skills on your part as you answer the same questions over and over. Do your best to answer the question with the same energy as you did the first time you were asked the question.

Sometimes, children ask questions to which we do not know the answers. This is quite common and should not be a reason for alarm. Teachers can reply by saying:

  1. I am not sure, but I am going to do some research and find out an answer for you.
  2. I don’t know the answer to that, how do you think we could find out?

Both responses model how to look for additional information from other sources. If you choose option one, be sure to get back to the student with the answer AND with how you found the answer. If you choose option two, work alongside the child to search for books, articles, videos, or other resources that explain the answer.

Here’s an idea – even if you know the answer, choose option 2. There is no better way to get children in the habit of seeking new information than making it necessary for them to find answers on their own. For example, if a child asks you how trees grow so tall, you could ask them for ideas on where to find the answer.  The child might respond by saying, “I bet my grandpa knows.”  You can then help the child record the question on paper as a reminder to contact Grandpa over the weekend to ask the question.

You could also create a Questions Board, where you can post different questions that are asked throughout the day. During class meetings, pull a few of the questions off the board and pose them to the large group.  Ask if anyone knows the answer, or has any ideas about how to find the answers.  Make plans to come back the next day with more information.

Have you found effective ways to promote questioning and researching with young children?

For the main article Strengthening Scientific Thinking, CLICK HERE

For the article Making Observations, CLICK HERE

For the article Making Predictions, CLICK HERE

For the article Experimenting & Sharing Results, CLICK HERE

April 2021 Newsletter – Strengthening Scientific Thinking: Making Observations

Children are natural observers.  They constantly take in new information through their senses to be processed by the brain.  It’s how they learn about their world. It’s why children mouth toys and reach out to touch unfamiliar objects. There are a number of things teachers can do to promote and enhance children’s observation skills:

  • Provide novelty – Look for new or different objects that you can safely share with children. Look for items that require children to explore using all of their senses. Each item doesn’t need to activate all 5 senses, but be sure to include items that provoke all senses throughout the day. You could introduce:
    • Class pets or visiting animals
    • Plants
    • Different toys or materials for children to explore and use in their play
    • Different art materials
    • Items from nature
    • Items with different textures, sounds, and smells
    • New foods (consult with families in case of food allergies)
  • Tools for observation – Teachers can promote observation by providing tools such as magnifying glasses, binoculars, bug boxes, ant farms, etc.
  • Language – Children need to hear new words in order to use them to describe their observations. Be sure to fill the environment with language and new vocabulary words. Younger children will benefit from hearing words that describe items, such as the red car, or the round table. Introduce multiple words that can be used to describe a particular item. For example, the fabric you add to the music area can be described as soft, silky, smooth, and velvety.
  • Point out interesting things to observe – When you see a bird soaring above the playground or an interesting cloud in the sky, tell the children what you observe. When you hear a new sound in the environment, ask children to stop and listen.
  • Encourage children to listen to one another – Sometimes, we need to be observant of others. In early childhood, children should pay attention to the words and actions of their peers. Words and actions are clues to the needs of others.
  • Help children observe sensations in the body – Throughout childhood, children become aware of their own bodies and sensations that are occurring within them. Infants discover their hands and feet. Toddlers can be encouraged to notice when they have to use the bathroom. Preschoolers can bring attention to how strong emotions make them feel. Remember, observing can be both external and internal.
  • Play observation games – Games like I-Spy, and sound bingo games are fun for children and help them build intentional and careful observation skills.
  • Ask many questions – Promote observation by asking children to tell you what they notice about an object or situation. Open-ended questions are best:
    • What do you see/hear/taste?
    • How does the object feel?
    • Describe what you taste/smell?
    • What’s happening now?
    • How is it changing?
    • What is happening to the size of the item?

What are your favorite ways to encourage children to be more observant?

For the main article Strengthening Scientific Thinking, CLICK HERE

For the article Asking Questions & Gathering Information, CLICK HERE

For the article Making Predictions, CLICK HERE

For the article Experimenting & Sharing Results, CLICK HERE

April 2021 Newsletter – Strengthening Scientific Thinking

It is probably safe to say that we have all taken science classes that taught the Scientific Method. Most of us have used the Scientific Method at some point to structure lab experiments or science fair projects. It is quite likely that some of us continue to use the Scientific Method, even informally, in our lives today.

In case you require a refresher, here are the steps to the Scientific Method:

  1. Make observations
  2. Ask a question
  3. Conduct background research
  4. Make a hypothesis (best guess)
  5. Conduct an experiment to test your hypothesis
  6. Collect (observe) and analyze data or results of the experiment
  7. Report your findings

Conducting experiments that follow the Scientific Method is just one way to introduce these steps to children. Young children may not be able to recall or use the Scientific Method’s steps in order. However, early childhood is a great time to introduce the steps of the Scientific Method and practice the skills in informal ways.

The activity ideas we share in this month’s newsletter will help strengthen different skills such as:

  • Making observations
  • Asking questions
  • Gathering information
  • Making predictions
  • Testing and experimenting
  • Representing or sharing results

Sometimes these skills can be practiced in isolation, but it is more common for two or more of these skills to be used during one activity. For example, observation skills will be practiced during most of the activity ideas we share. Keeping this in mind, note that we have grouped activity ideas together by skill for organizational purposes only.

For the article Making Observations, CLICK HERE

For the article Asking Questions & Gathering Information, CLICK HERE

For the article Making Predictions, CLICK HERE

For the article Experimenting & Sharing Results, CLICK HERE