Science Learning in Early Years: Skills Prevails Over Knowledge

Teaching science to children is not about delivering abstract and complicated concepts, but developing science skills and vocabulary to prepare them for better learning of the subject in the future.

‘We have to teach children how to observe, describe, measure and communicate, as all these skills are very important when they learn science in the future,’ said Dr Jenni Vartiainen, Post-doc Researcher, PhD, University of Helsinki. ‘At the same time, we can also teach them some commonly used words in science learning.’

Learning Science through Play

We wanted children to like learning science. Therefore it was not ideal for us to have the children sitting there and listening to teachers passively, said Dr Vartiainen.

‘We should make children happy and enjoy learning. To enhance students’ learning motivation and engagement, we should adopt what they prefer in teaching, such as storytelling and drama,’ said Dr Vartiainen. ‘What teachers have to do next is to connect the learning process to science.’

To her, allowing children to play freely is also a favourable teaching way, yet teachers should not interfere too much by telling the children what to do. Instead, they should facilitate their exploration. ‘After all, children should take the initiative to learn.’

To Observe and Direct

For example, when children play with water, teachers can stand aside, observe what they do, and lead them to look at the water from the science point of view if possible. When children put things on the water surface, teachers can encourage them to try with different objects, record the results and take a look at the outcome.

‘The learning process does not have to be an academic one, said Dr Vartiainen. ‘What we want to achieve is to have the children exposed to science and provide opportunities for them to experience. Once a scientific mindset is cultivated, children will be able to better understand the world and know how to find out answers to different questions.’