Natural Scientists Right from the Start

It's going to be another great year at Schoolmates. The new Explorers arrived in the rain on Wednesday, September 6. Everyone had raincoats and asked, "Are we going to hike today?" A little rain wasn't going to stop these enthusiastic children.

After some morning activities in the classroom, we headed outside for a hike. The rain had stopped, but it was still misty and wet. Because of the wet conditions and it being our first day with this class, Kelly and I decided to hike on a road rather than on a wooded trail. The main road passes by a man-made pond in front of the nature center. That pond would be our destination.  "Let's go see what the frogs are doing," I said to the group.
Before we started out, Kelly and I peppered the Explorers with information about our journey.

Me: "Sometimes the pond is covered in a plant called duckweed."

Kelly: "It's very green, and all you can see is the frogs' heads sticking up through it."

Me: "We'll have to be quiet as we approach the pond, so we don't scare the frogs.

Kelly: "We'll have to be still and look closely.

The Explorers walked slowly up to the fence that encircles the pond. Everyone was silent as they took in the scene—a small pond with green-covered water,  surrounded by stones and gravel. Then all at once, they started: "I see a frog!" "There are two on that rock." "There's one!" "That one is HUGH." "There are so many frogs— big ones!"

The Explorers were right. There were lots of frogs, and most of them were out of the water, sitting on rocks around the pond. We all wondered aloud if the frogs were out of the water because of the rainy conditions.

"Can we come back another day?" the class asked. "Absolutely," I answered. Preschoolers are natural scientists—always asking questions and looking for cause-and-effect relationships. I know from experience with the Explorers of previous years that the question, "Can we come back another day?" is full of intent and expectations. They will want to visit this pond on sunny days, rainy days, and windy days. During these visits they will notice how many frogs are out of the pond and how many are in the water—they will conduct an informal field study. Together the class will make observations, smart guesses and connections about weather conditions and the frogs' behavior.

The following school day, we returned to the pond. It was a clear day with blue sky, billowy white clouds, and dry air. The Explorers again quietly approached the pond. The frogs were harder to see—most of them were in the water. Kelly and I pointed to a bump in the duckweed and said, "See the eyes?" Once the group knew what to look, for the exclamations started. "I see one!" Look, just his eyes are sticking up!" "There's one on the other side of the pond." "So many are in the water."

This type of investigation will happen over and over this year. The Explorers will study birds, animals, trees, leaves, seeds, plants, snow, ice, hibernation, migration, and more. They will ask lots of questions and look for connections and relationships. They will wonder and experiment, wonder and experiment until they arrive at new learnings and understandings. Kelly and I will be there to inspire, support, encourage, and celebrate the Explorers, and we will have fun all year long. Yes, it's going to be another great year!

MIT News - Study shows that children think like scientists.

Science Illustrated - Preschoolers think like scientists

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