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A Head Start On Science: Creating A Sense of Wonder

Teresa Albers's picture

This book, entitled Getting A Head Start on Science: Creating A Sense of Wonder, is a collection of science activities designed by the National Science Teachers Association for use in Head Start classrooms. The book has several sections including: Senses, Physical Science, Critters,Water & Water Mixtures, Seeds, and Nature Walks. Two samples lessons were available for previewing; one lesson was on Pumpkin Insides and the other was about Ramps.

Pumpkin Insides: In this lesson several children are given a pumpkin and asked questions about their knowledge of pumpkin insides. They are asked to predict what is inside, the purpose of the stringy stuff, and why the stringy stuff is there. Then, the children gut the inside of the pumpkin with their hands. After gutting the pumpkin, the children participate in discussion about what they learned about the inside of the pumpkin.

Evaluation of the Lesson Plan against Principles For Inquiry-Based Education:

  1. Are children interested in and do they have previous thoughts about the subject?                     Children are interested in pumpkins.
  2. Prepare guidelines and scaffolding appropriate to the need of the student?                               The scaffolding is there to some extent, but I think modeling to the whole group before breaking into groups would be beneficial. Children would appreciate modeling on how to get the pulp off of your hands and how to dig those last bits of pulp off the sides of the pumpkin.
  3. Encourage students to recognize and share current understandings and notice differences in understandings?                                                                                        Children share their responses to several questions about pumpkins. Then, they open their pumpkins and proceed to gut the pumpkins.
  4. Encourage students to make new observations that are surprising to some of them. The lesson encourages children to reflect on the questions they were asked before the pumpkin was opened. I think that traveling around the room and talking to the individual groups would further enhance their sharing of ideas. Once things are cleaned up, time could be built into the schedule to tell their stories about why the pumpkin is built as it is and their stories about the process of gutting a pumpkin.
  5. Encourages students to figure out why they are surprised and the new understandings that would account for the previous understandings and their new observations.
  6. Encourage students to make explicit to themselves and to others their new understandings and the reasons for them and to reflect and recognize on differences among them.
  7. Encourage students to conceive new observations that have the potential to again alter their understandings and storiers. The lesson plan does not accomodate these aspects of inquiry education. For the preK classroom, in regard to all of these points of inquiry education, children need the teacher to lead the discussion The teacher will need to weave together the stories they are telling. The children do have stories to tell, but need someone to facilitate their expression and challenge them to new concepts. This process is part of the learning in a pre-K classroom. This lesson plan does not accomodate these points of inquiry exercises. Rather, they ends with children telling what they learned in regard to the questions they were asked at the beginning of the exercise.

The lesson plan for Ramps followed the same basic format as this one with one exception. In the Ramp lesson plan, children are encouraged to experiment with the Ramp before they are asked questions. The activity with this material is more open-ended that was the activity with the pumpkin. Then, they are asked questions, allowed more inquiry time, and then posed the same questions again. It appears that the format of the lesson plans is questioning, inquiry, questioning again. The more advanced points of inquiry reflection, integration, and storytelling are omitted from these lesson plans. The age appropriateness of those activities is dubious and most likely these lesson plans are appropriate for beginning experiences in open-inquiry exercises.