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Co-Op Science Ages 4-6

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I could use some help! I’ll be leading science for the little ones next year at our co-op. It will be for ages 4-6, we meet once a week, and I’ll be allotted about 30 minutes. My main focus will be doing a short lesson & experiment with them.  I was tossing around a couple of different directions. One, I could do monthly themes (but what??). Second, I considered using “The World God Made” (Kindergarten Science curriculum by CLP), and adding experiments that go along with what we read.

Im open to all ideas. Please help me! Thank you!!

ETA- and I’ll need 30 lessons (the number of weeks we meet). 

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Whatever you do for content, I would heavily emphasize scientific thinking by modeling the process.  Eg “what do you think will happen if I drop this rock in the basin of water?” Write down predictions. “Ok, let’s test it out.” Drop the rock. “what happened? How do you know this (observation, use of the senses, measuring, etc)?” Have them compare prediction to actual results. “Is this the result we expected?”  And then perhaps read them a picture book about the principle, or give a brief explanation in your own words and have them brain storm other tests they could try, or watch a video clip, or let them experiment with the idea on their own.

I wouldn’t try too hard to stick to a theme.  If you have activities that have connection that is good, but at this age they mostly need to be encouraged to observe, hypothesize, test, and enjoy!

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I follow these boards a lot for ideas, but when I saw your question I had to make an account to answer...tomorrow we are just finishing up a year of co-op, and I taught science for 4-6 year olds in 30 minute sessions once a week. We only did 10 weeks of science in the fall and 4 in the spring, but I have ideas on how to expand the units we did. I have write ups of many of our lesson plans because I wrote them with a friend from another state who is hoping to also use them - I'm happy to share these.

I highly recommend the book Preschool Pathways to Science (I found it at our library). It's geared toward preschool teachers who want to integrate science learning into their curriculum, but I found it really helpful in thinking about how to teach science to this age group. Some of the big takeaways for me were: 1) to have related/connected experiences with similar ideas, 2) to focus on a big idea (different from a traditional theme - an example would be "insides and outsides", which could cover things such as seeds inside fruit, body systems, mechanical insides of things, etc.), and 3) to cover topics that kids can experience (e.g., animals, plants, and weather are great, but for example planets and dinosaurs aren't things they can experience). I also had each student keep a science notebook, where they could record their observations.

I found that 30 minutes is SUCH a short amount of time, even though it is appropriate for their attention spans at this age. I suggest doing things in small groups of no more than 4 if you have other adults to help in the class. It's a lot harder to do classroom management with science experiments than with something like music.

I did these themes:

- Senses: to introduce observation (using mostly ideas from Preschool Pathways to Science) - I emphasized the idea that scientists OBSERVE using their senses and introduced the idea of recording observations in a science notebook. We also introduced the idea of predicting and checking our predictions by cutting open a coconut. You could easily spend an entire lesson on each sense! We did not have time for this, but it would also make sense to talk about science tools and how they help our senses make observations.

- Weather/seasons: how things change (this theme ran throughout the semester) - We used the Mystery Science weather lesson in the free trial to introduce observing the weather. We observed weather during different seasons and drew our observations. We observed an oak tree near our building in different seasons. During the fall, we collected leaves and made a graph of leaf colors. Kids did simple weather recording at home, and if I had had time during the spring we would have made some simple graphs to learn about how the weather changes. One of my friends is a meteorologist who did a demonstration about clouds - pouring water on a sponge. If you wanted to add more, you could have them design wind socks or rain gauges.

- Animals: how their form relates to function. - We learned about how to classify animals (the kids came up with their own schemes before I told them how scientists do it... one group had categories of cute, icky, and scary!) We did a "blubber" experiment to see what kinds of coverings keep animals warm in cold conditions. We did a Mystery Science lesson about different types of beaks. We visited the zoo and observed animals. We got worms to observe and did some simple (and ethical) experiments about their senses - do they prefer wet or dry, dark or light, can they smell rubbing alcohol, etc. I wanted to do some compare/contrast exercises with different animals and also learn about animal movement, but we ran out of time. 

- Engineering: the engineering design process - This semester, we did 4 weeks of engineering challenges to learn about the engineering design process. The first two weeks, the kids explored different objects rolling down ramps to knock down boxes that were straight ahead or off to the side. One week, kids built bridges out of notecards and paperclips. Tomorrow we're going to make hoop gliders with paper and straws! They had to learn how to explore materials, make a plan, create and test their design, and improve it.

 

I could see further exploring change with experiments with plants, recording kids' growth (feet or height), learning about animal life cycles (butterflies?). Mystery Science has some nice stuff for kindergarten, but it's a little pricey to buy for a co-op. You could check out the book A Head Start on Science - I think that it is slightly better than some of the other science activity books aimed at this age group because the activities are more inquiry-focused rather than a flashy demonstration or a science-related craft project.

Hope this gives you some ideas as a starting point!

 

 

Edited by ckpeck
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Thank you both!

Yes, we will definitely talk throughout the process about what they think will happen, what did happen, why, etc. 

Ckpeck, thank you for creating an account & sharing all of that! It was so very helpful!  It’s definitely along the lines of what I’m envisioning.  

I’m really trying to find ways that our science time can be not only educational but really fun & engaging for them. So thank you both for your help! I really appreciate your thoughts. 

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My kids used Developing Critical Thinking Through Science at a co-op.  They had such great experiments.  It was a lot like what Targhee mentioned, where they guess what will happen and write it down, then carry out the experiment and finish filling out their worksheet.  I imagine you could come up with something similar on your own.

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