Science Center for Preschool
The first time that I was asked to teach a workshop it was on the science center for preschool children. It was the annual Mid-Winter Conference that provided training hours for preschool teachers in licensed child care centers. The conference was held at Gaston College. While, I was thrilled to be asked to teach. The topic scared me to death. Science was one of my least favorite subjects in school and I could not imagine what materials and experiences that four and five year old children could do within the defined space of a science center.
I Was A Director of a Preschool
Science was probably the weakest area at my own child care center. How was I going to stand up in front of conferees and talk about the importance of this space for young children?
Science Center for Preschool – Set up to Observe
Thankfully, I had several months to research. As a way of preparing, I began setting-up a science center in my own child care center. What I found was amazing!
The children came equipped with exploring and investigating skills. They were drawn like magnets to water, sand, and collectable items from nature. It was fascinating to see the learning that I noted each day. See the materials that I added below to my science center – a book shelf filled with items.
Things that I added
- Seasonal flowers and plants, sea shells, and rocks.
- Books about identifying butterflies, clouds, birds, animals, and trees.
- Small fish tank on a lower shelf for observing.
- Sand box with scoops, measuring cups and spoons, buckets, etc.
- Water table that was open for some of the time. (It required constant visual attention).
- For novelty, new items were added and other things removed each week.
- Magnifying glass
- Postage Meter
- Measuring devises –stop watch, yard stick, ruler, tape measure, etc.
- Containers – plastic trays, plastic bottles, plastic cups, shoe boxes, egg cartons, etc.
- Collecting containers – paper bags, plastic buckets, etc.
- Recording Devises – digital recorder, camera, notebooks with pencils
Some Teacher-Directed Activities
Teacher directed science activities provided additional interest in the science center. For example, the children did not know what to do with the measuring cups and spoons until the teacher or I provided a fun activity. They needed direction on how to take a photograph and use a recorder. Through a short fifteen minute teacher-lead activity, the children learned how to use and take care of materials and supplies.
We took walks around the playground or a nearby park. I gave each child an an important assignment. They understood that they would share when they got back to the classroom. Some of the responsibilities were: (1) Camera for capturing photos, (2) Notepads and pens for taking notes and drawing pictures (They are able to read their scribbles), (3) Recorders for the sounds, and (4) Buckets for treasures such as leaves, shells, nuts, etc.
Arriving Back in the Classroom
After arriving back in the classroom, the children and teachers discussed the field trip. The teacher said, “Christopher, found different shaped leaves. Let’s look at them together. How are the leaves different? Pull out our book on leaves and let’s find the name of the bush or tree.”
“Listen to the sounds of the crickets that Michelle recorded. Kimberly took pictures of the trees. Would you pass those pictures around for the class to see? What is different about the two trees?”
After the brief circle time sharing, the teacher encouraged the children to display some of the things that they found. You might suggest that they invite other classes to the science center to observe the display. Treat the children like learners. Give them tools to investigate and explore. You will be surprised at the learning.
The Science Center
My husband, Garry, built a large box with a lid that I filled it with sanitized sand and added scoops, measuring cups, buckets, etc. This was an area that the children were always interested in visiting. Also, we purchased a water table and added different containers for measuring. (I colored the water at times for more interest.) This is an area that MUST have constant supervision. My shelves held a variety of things for exploring.
The Teacher’s Role
The teacher’s role in the science center is to set-it-up with new and different tools for investigating things, for collecting things, measuring things, recording sounds, taking photos, and many more. The Kaplan site will provide more information about materials to order. Encourage children to use all their senses in this area. See how to set-up a science center in the early childhood classroom by going to Extension.
Ways to Introduce a New Topic
You might introduce a future field trip by introducing the topic with a colorful book. For example, before going to look for different birds you could share a book with pictures of birds. It is important for the teachers to be able to recognize different birds, clouds, trees, plants, etc. “Look at the beautiful cumulus cloud!” Be in tune to the children’s interest and be willing to modify a plan based on the direction of the children.
At times, I would make a science assignment. I might say to the children, “some time this morning during free-choice time, I want you to go to the water-table and tell me how many cups the blue bucket will hold. When you have the answer come and tell me.” Of course, I kept a record of their responses.
Get the children interested in science by bringing in interesting items such as books, objects from nature, plastic animals and bugs to examine, etc.
Back to My Workshop on Science
I shared the truth about my fear of science with the conferees at the Mid Winter Conference. I confessed that I had never promoted science because I had never liked science. After my confession, I began showing them how I had changed my own center to include science. I had pictures and anecdotal notes to share. Several of the center’s preschool teachers provided testimonials, too.
Since science is hands-on, I carried a trunk-load of materials to try to duplicate a science center to my workshop. We even went on a field trip and collected our own stuff to try to identify through books.
I received good feedback. It not only taught me things about the topic of science, my center highlighted science until I sold my center and began teaching early childhood classes at Gaston College.
I hope that you begin to love the science center in preschool.
Wanda Wyont has worked in the field of education over twenty years in many diverse settings. Her teaching experiences range from preschool to college age. She holds an MA in Birth-Kindergarten and has presented multiple workshops at national venues. She has written and published numerous articles and papers on children’s issues. As an experienced storyteller, she encourages children to become good readers and writers. Recently, she published her second children’s book.