She focuses the children’s attention on important
concepts about living things:
• Basic needs
• Physical characteristics
She encourages deeper thinking to enrich their ex-
periences without interfering in their own process of
questioning and exploration. As she does this the chil-
dren develop their skills in the following:
• Observing closely
• Describing what they see
• Raising questions
• Representing things and ideas
And as she engages the children in planning the
worm’s visit to the classroom, she guides the children
in the following:
• Appreciating the connection between an
organism and its environment
• Appreciating the need to care for the
• Realizing their responsibility for the animals
they bring into the classroom
As you continue to read and begin to implement,
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 in the
Young Scientist series.
• All three- to five-year-olds can successfully expe-
rience 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
We live in a world filled with an enormous variety of
living things that inhabit all kinds of environments.
Even on city streets, small plants push their way up
through cracks in the sidewalk, and ants appear seem-
ingly from nowhere. Children are fascinated by living
things. The teaching methods described in this book
will help children expand on that fascination to be-
come young naturalists, encouraged to see the out-
doors as an authentic place to explore living things as
they exist in nature and the indoors as a place to re-
create small parts of the outdoors and look more
closely at temporary plant and animal visitors. The
emphasis of this exploration is not on naming specific
living things. While knowing the names of living
things makes for more efficient communication, it does
little to deepen children’s understanding. Instead, the
specific goals of the exploration are to provide oppor-
tunities for children to
• Observe life around them more closely.
• Build an understanding about what is living and
nonliving such as the characteristics and needs of
living things—their life cycles, habitats, diversity
and variation, and interdependence.
• 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, respect
for life, and delight in being a young naturalist.
The Classroom Environment
A naturalistis a person who studies living things, espe-
cially by direct observation of animals and plants. One
of the most important roles you play in this exploration
is creating an environment and culture in your class-
roomthat supports and encourages children to be
4 Discovering Nature with Young Children