College of Liberal Arts
Psychology and Child Development Department
BS in Child Development
In this senior project, I reviewed existing literature regarding science instruction in preschool classrooms, young children’s capabilities and interest in learning science, what science is happening at home, as well as preschool teachers’ feelings toward teaching science. I explored the possibility of bridging the gap between the school and home environment by using a prepared informal learning tool that students could take home and complete with their family.
During the years children are in preschool, they are forming their understandings of the world around them (French, 2004; Nayfield, Brenneman & Gelman, 2011; Eshach & Fried, 2005). In developing these understandings, their natural curiosity prepares them for the beginning ideas of science (Eshach & Fried, 2005; Cowie, Otrel-Cass, 2011). Research is beginning to show that children can not only understand scientific concepts, but they also enjoy learning about them (Eshach & Fried, 2005; Cowie & Otrel-Cass, 2011; Nayfield, Brenneman, & Gelman, 2011; Siry, Ziegler, & Max, 2011). Researchers further argue that preschool-aged children should be exposed to science early because this will help in understanding scientific concepts later on (Eshach & Fried, 2005).
In my senior project, I created science backpacks that could be used to bridge learning between the science curricula offered at school and the science learning opportunities that can be fostered by parents at home. My project consisted of two phases: development and pilot testing. I developed three Science Literacy Connection (SLiC) backpacks that consisted of science-themed children’s literature, science activity instructions, as well as the materials for the activities. Observations completed at the Montessori Children’s School determined the three themes chosen for the backpacks, which include Cloud Types, Food Chains, and Acids and Bases.
After completing all of the backpacks (Name that Cloud, What’s on the Menu?, and pH fun for everyone), one was chosen to go through further testing. The “Name that Cloud” SLiC backpack went through a series of observation-based pilot-testing done at The Cal Poly Preschool Learning Lab, before being sent home with a preschooler from the Montessori Children’s School.
Field-tests completed on the “Name that Cloud” SLiC backpack suggested that children and adults positively engaged in science-related activities while exploring the backpack contents. As a result, I felt that the “Name that Cloud” SliC backpack achieved what it was designed to do, which was to increase preschool children’s exposure to science as well as encourage parent-child interactions.
The materials provided in each of the backpacks model an appropriate interactive approach to fostering children’s learning in science.