When teaching in an inquiry-based program, kindergarten science can be challenging in one way (no planning ahead) and incredibly freeing (following the interests of my students). I have to be constantly attuned to what my students are questioning and wondering about and then act on what I hear.
To learn more about running an inquiry-based learning environment, take a look at the book THINQ Kindergarten. It provides a great mix of background information and real-world examples from classrooms. It really helped me move my thinking forward on how I want to run my kindergarten classroom.
Whenever I hear my students talk and ask questions, I note what they are saying (either writing it down or mentally). Then I continue to observe them see if this was a passing thought or if they are deeply interested in learning more about a subject.
Sometimes, they are just talking, and it doesn’t lead to an inquiry, but other times, they are ready to do some deep learning around a science topic. That’s when I step up and start planning how I can extend their understanding and provoke more questions.
Outdoor learning provides so many opportunities for students to inquire about the natural world. From finding worms to looking at flowers or asking questions about clouds. Getting your classroom outside is a great way to start inquiry learning!
One way to get students interested in a topic or spark questions is to set up provocations. Sometimes it is simply placing a pumpkin vine on a table and seeing what they come up with. Plants, pictures, natural materials (like rocks, sticks, etc.) and books are all great items to have on hand for provocations.
I intentionally pick out the materials and tools I think students will want to observe, and then I listen to the questions and conversations they have about them. This is a great time to document the learning that is taking place.
Explicitly Teaching Kindergarten Science
On top of the self-directed learning and exploration that students are doing, I teach my students about different subjects. For example, I work with the school’s teacher-librarian to find books. Then, I read them and use them to enhance provocations.
I can also use slide decks on different subjects to help students learn more. For example, I’ve made a few different units on popular subjects that my students over the years: plants, space, colours. I find that these are great for extending learning and getting students to ask questions.
How do you teach science in your kindergarten classroom? Let me know in the comments!