Using Your Kindergarten 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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