‘The cocoa is too hot, I cannot drink it!’, Charlotte exclaims during morning tea.

Emily, her teacher, smiles and responds ‘I am not sure what to do. Do you have an idea how you could cool it down as fast as possible?’

Ben suggests: ‘Why don’t you stir the cocoa really fast? This always helps when I do it.’

‘I have an even better idea!’, Ben’s friend Julia says, ‘You could blow into it!’

‘Well, I think these are some pretty good ideas!’, Emily says, ‘Charlotte, why don’t we ask the other children about their ideas and we try to find out what works best?’

Learning opportunities like this arise in early childhood settings every single day. Based on the strong belief that children need to have early opportunities to discover the world, the ‘Little Scientists’ professional development program supports education and care services in integrating inquiry and exploration into daily activities.

‘Little Scientists’ strongly advocates that every child should have access to hands on discovery in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – on a daily basis.

To enable a sustainable implementation, the initiative offers a professional development workshop program for early childhood educators. During the full day workshop, teachers and educators explore various opportunities to playfully address the many exciting questions that arise within a child’s experiential world.

Through hands on, practical experiments and group activities, the educators experience education on an age-appropriate level and learn how to support children in finding answers themselves. All workshops are built around using existing, everyday materials, to make experimenting and exploring at the education and care services as accessible as possible. Once completed, teachers can then – step-by-step – implement the activities with the children in their care.

The ‘Little Scientists’ program includes:

  • A long-term program of currently 9 different workshop topics.
  • Hands-on workshops with several rounds of practical experiments which are done with everyday materials and can easily be adjusted to the work in centres.
  • Having fun while exploring given materials in small groups. Participants experience the stages of surprise, asking questions, coming up with hypotheses, testing these in further experiments, documenting findings and discussing the outcomes, much like what the children will experience.
  • Getting to know and use the ‘Little Scientists’ Inquiry-Based Learning Cycle, a scientific method which helps to give structure and purpose to experimenting and lays the foundation for further investigation.
  • After every workshop, each participating centre receives a set of laminated cards with a wealth of ideas for experiments and scientific background information as well as a booklet with the educational content addressed in the workshop.

The holistic approach of the program not only encourages scientific exploration, but also aims at ensuring the development of basic competencies for sustained lifelong learning.

German educator Friedrich Froebel opened the world’s first kindergarten in 1837. Froebel’s method inspired and informed the work of Maria Montessori, Rudolf Steiner, and others, who adopted his ideas and adapted his materials according to their own work.

‘Little Scientists’ initiative – Scientific exploration for young children

Little Scientists

$4 million has been committed to the Little Scientists program in Australia to inspire three year old and four year old children, through active engagement with the world around them. Young Australians are becoming more numerate and scientifically literate by learning to count with little towers of wooden blocks and blowing bubbles. Nurturing the imagination of each child ensures they will go on to create the prosperity for Australia to remain a first world, generous social welfare net, high wage economy. read more

Activities start with familiar objects and experiences. Each child asks questions, which can be explored rationally. Making connections, drawing inferences, and creating new information are the building blocks for a culture of science and technology to create an innovation nation.

The curriculum encourages the autonomy, self confidence and self esteem of each child, based on the progressive ideas of Friedrich Fröbel, the renowned educator, who developed the Kindergarten concept 175 years ago. The program sparks interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics by encouraging teachers to implement ideas and concepts from workshops, while exploring together with the children in their care.

Source: Little Scientists Australia

The five year olds agree: trees make the wind by shaking their branches. Their teacher does not correct them, but instead asks whether anyone has seen the wind in a place where there are no trees. One boy recalls a visit to the seashore, where the wind was whipping up water and sand with no trees in sight. Another child says that moving cars make fallen leaves twirl. Perhaps, they decide, trees are not the source of a breeze.

Little Scientists marks a departure, says a kindergarten teacher who participates in the programme. “You have to be willing to do something with the kids that might not lead to a result. They will not take something home that they can show their parents.” Teachers trained in the method encourage children to ask questions about natural phenomena and everyday objects. read more