Teaching Elementary Science
Young children love to see science in action. They need to see it, feel it, smell it, taste it, and live it. Simple experiments bring science to life. It can be as easy as teaching the words, “sink and “float,” filling up the bathroom sink, and seeing what household objects sink or float. As a bonus, you can make a chart on a big piece of paper and list or draw pictures of everything that floated under “Float” and everything that sank under “Sink.” You can observe nature, catch bugs, watch rainbows, make a baking soda and vinegar volcano, drop Mentos in a bottle of Diet Coke, mix colored water, and use mirrors with a flashlight. Sort items into solids and liquids. Grab a magnet and see what sticks! You can read library books. (Let’s Read and Find Out series is fabulous for this age.) Experiment kits are also quite fun for this age, such as Magic School Bus kits.
This is also an excellent time to let your child guide his or her own education. Ask your child what he wants to learn about! For instance, if they are always catching bugs, provide them with the tools to do so, join them, and point out the six legs, the hard exoskeleton, and the three body parts as you go. Read a few books about insects together. Watch MicroCosmos. Give them colored pencils and ask them to draw the bugs they saw. Let them try walking like a bug or picking up food with two fingers representing insect jaws. Keep an insect for a day with leaves and earth in an appropriate container and watch what it does. You can even order butterfly or ladybug larva or keep an ant farm!
There are so many choices for science on your own at any age. I’ve blogged more about DIY elementary science here.
However, many parents don’t want to invent their own science experiments every week. There are plenty of options that lay out simple science ideas for Pre-K and K age students for the parents to follow. The cheapest approach is to Google “Pre-K science” and pick an activity of the multitude that appear!
Many Pre-K and K curriculum include a science section. However, some parents want a separate science guide to use whenever they choose. Here are some options to keep in your bookshelf:
Mudpies to Magnets/More Mudpies to Magnets: These books provide simple experiments for young children. Step-by-step instructions and illustrations make these experiments easy to perform. Each experiment is labeled with an age range beginning as young as two, and contains very age-appropriate science. Some experiments are couched in terms meant for a group, but they can still be done at home.
Science is Simple: Over 250 Experiments for Preschoolers: The official age range on this is 4-6. It is written for a classroom and has a lot of involved experiments. They can easily take you through first grade, but some are more involved than the previous options. Many parents aren’t going to, as the book suggests, buy live crickets at the store and keep them in a terrarium for observation. Many of the activities are simpler, however, and a lot of thinking is encouraged. This book begins with a section for the teachers to read. There is a focus throughout the book on the scientific method and recording observations.
The Everything Kids Easy Science Experiment Book: This book has a variety of simple science activities easily done with young children. The activities are followed by a related scientific explanation for older children. For instance, one page suggests a nature walk with leaf gathering, followed by leaf examination (using a magnifying glass if you have one), leaf sorting, and leaf rubbing art. This would work well for Pre-K and K students. This is followed by two paragraphs on trees, leaves, stems, and deciduous vs coniferous that can easily be included or excluded as you wish.
Singapore Early Bird Science: This is a series of workbooks for young children. Simple lessons and activities are taught briefly. A light overview of science.
WinterPromise Animals Around the World: This Pre-K/K program explores seven different habitats and the animals within them. It also introduces the idea of a nature journal. Crafts are generally a feature of WinterPromise products. This is an expensive option. They also sell a 1st-4th grade version, so make sure you’re looking in the right place.
Nancy Larson: This science program provides all materials needed to use it, and it is very interactive/hands-on. There are many bright photographs included for the lessons. This is more expensive. The K and 1st grade levels appear very fun, but a bit light on content.
If you feel your child is ready for more advanced science, check out the Grammar Stage Science post! Many of those options start in K or 1st for the strong science student.
Faith–Faith is a highly distractable mother of four. She believes in doing what is best for each child and has experimented with various combinations of public, charter, and home schools. Her oldest child is diagnosed with Asperger’s with ADHD-Combined and anxiety, and she suspects her third child struggles with it, also. Faith is an unabashed feminist and “crunchy” mom, strongly LDS with a passion for knitting, avoiding cooking, and Harry Potter.