ERG SES E 08, Early Years Education
A growing body of research emphasizes the importance of science experiences in early childhood education (Eliason & Jenkins, 2003; Archer et al. 2012; Fleer and Robbins, 2003; Robbins, 2005) since science related activities support development and learning of children (Hadzigeorgiou, 2010). Children innately examine their environment and they begin to develop a comprehension of the world. Therefore, Trundle (2010) argue that, in early childhood years, quality science experiences are essential so that children can improve their process of knowledge construction and to develop scientific thinking skills which can be transferred to other academic domains (As cited in Olgan, 2015). Related to this, early childhood teachers should provide a secure environment for children to enable them to investigate and explore through science activities. Besides, teachers should encourage children to share their ideas in order to support children’s creativity and problem solving skills (Unal & Akman, 2006). However, related research indicated that early childhood teachers who have a crucial role in science teaching apt to deal with less science activities (Saçkes, Trundle, Bell, & O’Connell, 2011; Maier, Greenfield, & Bulotsky-Shearer, 2013). Furthermore, Wenner (1993) found that early childhood teachers are not well prepared for science activities. In this regard, this study examines the most frequent science content area (physical science, life science, earth and space science, or engineering technology, and applied science) activities conducted by early childhood teachers in their classroom based on teacher reports. Moreover, this study investigates teachers’ predictions related to interests of children in particular science content areas. More precisely, this study is based on a science fair annually organized by a state university in Turkey. In this science fair, 10 science activities covering science content areas were provided by researchers from early childhood education area. Before entering the fair area and after conducting hands on activities in the fair area as guides of young learners, the early childhood educators were asked to fill in a questionnaire in order to answer the following research questions:
1-) What are early childhood educator’s predictions about young children’s science content area interest?
2-) Which science content areas are mostly preferred by early childhood teachers in their classroom?
3-) Which science content areas are mostly preferred by children in the science fair according to teachers?
4-) Which science content areas teachers mostly plan to use in learning environments after the science fair?
Sample group of the current research consists of in-service early childhood education teachers (N=65) working in public or private preschool settings. The teachers were voluntarily participated in the study. To collect the data, a survey to examine teachers’ opinion about children’s interests in particular science activities and the most frequent science activities that they conduct in their classroom was distributed to participants. The first part of the survey including two questions regarding their opinion about children’s interests in particular science activities and the most frequent science activities that they conduct in their classroom was distributed to teachers before experiencing the science activities in the fair. They were asked to choose the science activity/activities including physical science, life science, earth and space science, or engineering technology, and applied science in the science fair that children will be interested in. Then, they were asked to rank these science activities that they conduct in their classroom from most frequent to least frequent. Afterwards, teachers observed the science activities with the children in the science fair. Finally, the second part of the survey were distributed to teachers when they completed the activities in the science fair. In the second part of the survey, teachers were asked what kind of activities in the science fair children were interested in. Then, they ranked the science activities that they plan to include in their science teaching. Descriptive statistics and frequencies were employed in the data analysis process. Further, the Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) version 23.0 was used for analysis of data. Frequency tables were used to represent findings of the study.
Findings of the study indicate that participant early childhood teachers think that children will mostly interested in life science (n=22) related science activities and earth and space activities (n=21) will be the second most interested science activities for preschool children. Also according to the teachers, engineering, technology and applied science activities (n=8) will be the third and physical science (n=7) activities will be the least interested science activity discipline for the children. When the preference of early childhood education teachers regarding frequency of science activity discipline analyzed the results revealed that in accordance with their expected child interest ideas, teachers mostly conduct life science (n=13) activities in their classrooms. Moreover, engineering, technology and applied science activities (n=9) are the least preferred activities by early childhood teachers. After the teachers attended science fair they were asked about opinions regarding science activity preferences of children during the fair. The results indicated that according to teachers, children mostly preferred life science activities (n=20). Contrary to the teachers’ views at the beginning of the fair, children secondly interested in physical science (n=15) activities. Engineering, technology and applied science (n=4) and earth and space (n=1) activities least preferred by the preschool children. Lastly, teachers were asked about what kind of science activities that teachers mostly plan to include after science fair and according to results, teacher predominantly plan to do life science (n=19) activities. In accordance with children’s preferences, teachers secondly plan to do physical science (n=12) activities. Teachers think that they plan to do engineering, technology and applied science activities (n=20) least.
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