Using Your Science Center to Help Children Think and Act Like a Scientist

Sunday, 14 July 2019


With all the curriculum kindergarten teachers are required to teach, it can be a struggle to find large chunks of time to devote to science instruction.

A classroom science center can help!

Make it the hub of ongoing investigations and experiments, where children learn to think like a scientist and use essential science practices.

Be intentional about the invitations you offer here and look for opportunities that emerge from children's questions, thoughts, and interests.

Stay away from themes that focus only on content (i.e. plants) and not on process skills (i.e. observation).

In no time, your kiddos will be doing amazing things that would have made even Einstein proud!

1)  Scientists Ask Questions


Scientists are full of wonder and so are children! Outside of the center, encourage children to share their questions with you during "Science Talks" built around read alouds or objects that children find curious and intriguing.  Within the center, you might have a Wonder Wall for children to post questions throughout the year.

kindergarten child doing a pumpkin experiment

Either way, use these questions to help you find science center invitations to offer that children can explore in an effort to find answers.

One year, children were curious about a green pumpkin that I brought into the classroom and wanted to know if it looked the same on the inside as an orange pumpkin.

During choice time, children worked in the center to find the answer. They enjoyed this sensory experience and began to recognize that their teacher valued and encouraged their questions.

2)  Scientists Gather Information


Research is an important process that scientists use to gather information to answer their questions or grow their thinking around a topic.

And kindergarteners can be researchers too!

Within your science center, create a "research nook" where you house informational resources around a topic that is currently of great interest to children.

eagle research in the kindergarten science center

The materials can be used during whole class shared research, but also made available for children to use while working in the center.

Include paper for children to take notes and invite them to share what they have drawn/written with the rest of the class.

3)  Scientists Make Hypotheses


Within your science center, create invitations that ask questions and invite young scientists to record their thinking via recording sheets, notebooks/journals, graphs, or charts.

kindergarten kids making pumpkin predictions in the science center

Here children were asked to make predictions and tell why they thought one pumpkin would decompose faster than another.

When children make their thoughts visible, you are given a window into their thinking and they show you what they already know about a question or topic.

4)  Scientists Conduct Experiments


Many of the questions children ask will lead to experiments that you can plan together.  Eventually, children will begin to understand this process and be able to design and conduct their own experiments.

Use your science center as a place for children to observe and monitor the changes and developments of these ongoing experiments.

kindergarten children making observations about the effects of salt on snow

This picture shows a child-led experiment that developed from curiosities around the "blue snow" children noticed outside our school building.  The next day the custodian left us a small little cup of the salt he used on the walkways to show to the children.

From here they began to ask questions about how the salt worked and we designed an experiment to see which side of this block of ice would melt faster - the one with or without the salt.

5)  Scientists Observe and Record Results


Children can use your science center to record observations and note changes over time in science notebooks or journals.

kindergarten child observing bean plant and recording results in science notebook journal

Using this Bean Plant Journal, children visited the center, checked in on their plants, drew exactly what they saw and noted the plant's current stage of growth.

6)  Scientists Share Results


Provide time for children to share observations about long-term experiments they are doing and to show results of those that have come to an end.

kindergarten experiment to test the hardness of rocks and minerals

This was a "scratch test" experiment two students began to explore the hardness of rocks.  They created two groups - those that made marks on the chalkboard and those that did not and shared their results with the class.

Teacher As Scientist


It's not only important for children to think and act like scientists, but also the teacher! Continuously model this type of thinking throughout your day and use your science center as a home base for
all your projects and experiments.

If you don't yet have a Science Center in your classroom and are looking for set-up tips, this start-up guide will walk you through the process.

set up guide of kindergarten science center during choice time

Thanks for stopping by!


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ways to use your science center during choice time in kindergarten



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5 Ideas for Learning in the Block Center During Choice Time

Friday, 5 July 2019


The hands-down favorite choice time discovery center in my kindergarten classroom is the block area.

block area ideas for set up

Every single year!

And while it's a big classroom management win that my kids love it and are truly engaged, this post is about unpacking the learning that happens through the activities and invitations offered at this fun, hands-on center.

So here we go!

1. Unit Blocks

If there was one must-have for your block center set up, it would be a set of basic unit blocks.  When I first began teaching kindergarten, it was ALL I had in my block center and the children never tired of them. 

These blocks were designed for teaching mathematics.  The standard rectangular prism block is the base of the unit block system, and smaller 1/2 unit blocks were designed so children can put them together to equal a whole unit.

block center material and learning set up ideas

Children will discover this as they work with these blocks to build various structures.  Teachers can use photos of their children's work to expand on mathematical relationships and teach about concepts such as part, part, whole and the beginning concepts of addition.

2.  Block Props

Toy vehicles, animals, mini trees, and natural items, such as stones and sticks, fall into this category and children love incorporating them into their block play.  

While studying animals in science, invite children to use these props to build habitats based on their animal research.  

eagle habitat inquiry based learning

Children will need to do some good thinking about what elements need to go into that habitat and which props can best represent those elements. 

This child knew that eagles live in tall trees to serve as a lookout for prey.    

Once children have created theses habitats, ask them give you a "tour" and explain their thinking behind each of the items used. 

3.  Signs

Incorporate literacy into the block center through the use of signs. Both those with pictures of environmental print and blank signs, invite opportunities for children to apply what they have been learning about reading and writing to their work in the block center.

signs as props for block play

writing letters and numbers in the block center

Include an alphabet chart to support children in reading and writing signs and don't be surprised if they soon want to write signs in all of the discovery centers!

4.  Ramps

The block center is a great place to explore physical science.  My force and motion unit draws from the experiences children have in this center as they incorporate inclined planes into their play.  Foam boards, rain gutters, and pool noodles (cut in half) can all be used for these purposes.

physical science in kindergarten using inclined planes through block play

Try placing some of these props in your center without any introduction.  Watch and take note of how children use them and what physical science experiments they are conducting.  Document their discoveries and invite them to share with the class to grow everyone's thinking.  

5.  Kids

Surprised by this last one? Where is the learning in just adding kids to the block center?

Not all the learning that takes place here is academic.  There's a whole lot more going on that falls into the category of social-emotional skills.

Look at this photo.  Can you see how children are collaborating to create one structure?

21st century future ready skills through block play

This happens ALL the time in the block center as children negotiate ideas and share materials.

The value in this type of 21st century learning cannot be underestimated as teachers work to prepare kids for the future.

What I hear over and over again, is that employers want to hire workers who are creative and can work together.

I'd say it all begins in the block center!  What do you think?

Block Center Start-Up Guide

Are you looking to add a block center to your preschool or kindergarten learning space?

I've written this START-UP GUIDE to assist you in the sometimes overwhelming set up, organization, and storage process of choice time discovery centers.

learning how to set up a block area in kindergarten or preschool classroom

I'll also be providing more support via this blog (look for other posts on more centers) and on Instagram and Facebook throughout the summer.

This is because I LOVE and value these centers and am excited to share all that I have learned (and am still learning) during choice time with children!

Thanks for stopping by!



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Unpacking Choice Time Discovery Centers

Monday, 1 July 2019


kindergarten-free-choice-centers

This sweet note inspired me to do a thing.

That is...spend the summer sharing something I'm super passionate about...

art-loose-parts-blocks-kindergarten-centers

It's easy to see why children love them.

A little more difficult to advocate for them during times of high stakes testing.

But even when I taught 1/2 day kindergarten, I saw the educational benefits (not to mention my standards) hidden within children's work and play at these centers.

And I want to show you too.

So...each week I'll be sharing ideas, observations, reflections, tips, and tricks about a different center with the hope that maybe, jussssst maybe, you might be inspired to try discovery centers with your kiddos!

handwork-fine-motor-kindergarten-centers

I'll be sending out a weekly post here on the blog about each center, but.....

I'll also be on Instagram and Facebook daily sharing photos if you want to catch me there.

kindergarten-centers-blocks-science-art-math-storytelling-makerspace-writing

Feel free to comment or DM with any questions and I invite you to share your own photos on Instagram at #discoverycenters.

kindergarten-centers-science-sensory-tub-bin-space-play

Hope your summer is moving along nicely and you are getting everything you need!

Thanks for stopping by!

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