• Observing closely
• Raising questions
• Representing things and ideas
Her questions focus the children’s attention on spe-
cific designs and strategies they’ve used to build
bridges, and how different blocks respond when used
As you continue to read this guide and begin to use
these techniques, you will learn more about science
for young children and what they can do. You will
also learn about how to make it possible for children
to engage in the rich science exploration exemplified
by Teacher C. As you teach, keep in mind these basic
principles of the Young Scientist series.
• All three- to five-year-olds can successfully
experience rich, in-depth scientific inquiry.
• The content of the science learning draws from
children’s experiences, is interesting and engaging,
and can be explored directly and deeply over time.
Expectations are developmentally appropriate; that
is, they are realistic and tailored to the strengths,
interests, and needs of individual children.
• Discussion, expression, representation, and reflec-
tion are critical ways in which children make
meaning and develop theories from their active
work. Children learn from one another.
• Teachers can take on specific roles and use partic-
ular strategies to actively support and guide chil-
dren’s science learning.
Rationale and Goals
Structures are everywhere. Some, such as houses, tow-
ers, walls, fences, playground equipment, and bill-
boards, are constructed by people. Others are natural,
such as trees, cliffs, and skeletons. Surrounded by
structures, it is no surprise that young children are
often enthusiastic about building their own.
Many young children have had experiences build-
ing either at home or in early childhood settings.
Most classrooms provide blocks of different sizes and
shapes, as well as additional materials to encourage
building and acting out ideas and fantasies. Building
Structures, however, will focus children’s explorations
and deepen their understanding of the physical science
present in building.
The specific goals of the exploration are to provide
opportunities for children to
• Build with a variety of different materials.
• Experience the ways forces (gravity, compression,
tension) affect a structure’s stability.
• Build an understanding about how the character-
istics of materials affect a structure’s stability.
• Develop science inquiry skills including wonder-
ing, questioning, exploring and investigating,
discussing, reflecting, and formulating ideas and
• Develop scientific dispositions including curios-
ity, eagerness to find out, an open mind, and
delight in being a builder.
The Classroom Environment
One of the most important roles you play in this explo-
ration is to create an environment and culture in your
classroom that supports and encourages children’s
building—the classroom must convey the excitement,
challenge, and wonder of building with many different
materials. Some of the characteristics of such an envi-
ronment and culture follow.
The Importance of Building
A building environment conveys the importance of
building structures of all kinds. By providing many
kinds of blocks (made from wood, foam, and plastic)
and other building materials (such as clay, cardboard,
and wire), you create a building environment that chal-
lenges children to build in different ways. In the build-
ing environment, there is enough space and time to
build complicated structures and even leave them
standing for further discussion and work. Pictures of
buildings and blueprints on the walls and books about
buildings placed around the classroom provide children
with images of different structures and their characteris-
tics. This importance is also conveyed on walks around
the neighborhood as you notice buildings and other
structures, and discuss how and of what they are made.
4 Building Structures with Young Children