about what they need. This will help children gather
information and experiences necessary to ask and pur-
sue new questions.
You also will want to encourage symbolic play in
this exploration by asking children to assume the role
of the young naturalist with their own naturalist tools
and other props such as hats and aprons with many
pockets. They might also become creatures themselves,
moving and behaving as though they were a particular
animal. Symbolic play may go on in the block corner
or sand table as well, with children creating homes or
environments for play animals or imaginary ones.
There may well be opportunities for you to join this
play and engage children in discussion and activity
around some of the concepts they are learning.
Many children will see the study of small animals as
an opportunity to become caregivers, the animals be-
coming pets or substitute babies. It is important to re-
spect children’s caring but to carefully reinforce the idea
that it is essential to meet the needs of living things.
Looking for animals outdoors may lead some children
to take on the role of hunters rather than the role of the
naturalist. It is best to redirect this kind of play at this
time as it may lead to rough treatment of the animals
and may conflict with developing an attitude of respect
for the living environment.
Children may also want to engage in constructive
play with animals. Their interests can be focused on
building terraria or designing a garden. They may also
want to create raceways for worms or build block
houses for snails. In these instances, you will need to
stop the play and refocus children’s attention, dis-
cussing, if appropriate, why the children cannot do
these things with living creatures.
Science Outcomes and
As you provide opportunities for children to explore
living things, and guide them in their development of
science inquiry skills, you will also see growth in lan-
guage, literacy, mathematics, and social skills, as well
as in children’s approaches to learning. The chart that
appears in the appendix (pp. 147–153) shows the con-
nections between science inquiry outcomes as we de-
fine them in the Young Scientist series and the
outcomes of other subject areas taken from the Head
Start Child Outcomes Framework.
Mathematics is one of the languages scientists use
to record and reflect on their observations and to
communicate their ideas to others. Children who are
exploring living things will also become meaningfully
involved with mathematics ideas as they count, meas-
ure, sort, categorize, and compare the many plants
and animals in their surroundings. They will also use
other mathematics skills as they look at the shapes of
leaves and trees, at small animals, and for patterns.
Scientists also communicate with words. As chil-
dren communicate their findings, participate in discus-
sions, and represent their experiences they are
certainly increasing their language and literacy skills.
In fact, research suggests that engaging children in
rich science experiences provides a context and a pur-
pose for meaningful language and literacy learning. By
engaging with science, children build their vocabulary
while developing an ability to communicate their
ideas. Such a capacity for oral language provides the
foundation for all literacy learning. Children also learn
about the importance of books as they use them to
find out what their snails need to live or to get ideas
about building techniques, materials, and designs.
They learn to record their observations, explanations,
and ideas about how worms or snails behave by using
multiple forms of representation, including drawings,
simple graphs, and writing. Such representations pro-
vide a visible record that encourages children to re-
flect on and talk about their theories and what they
Science is a social activity. Whether in person or
through other means of communication, scientists ex-
change ideas, build on one another’s work, and often
collaborate on science investigations. As children pur-
sue their questions about living things, they need to
work together to find interesting plants and animals,
build a classroom terrarium, and exchange ideas about
how a snail moves or when a pill bug curls up. To-
gether their individual ideas can suggest a bigger pic-
ture and new ideas—all things that eat are alive. Such
collaborative work (that involves sharing materials and
ideas) provides children with significant opportunities
for developing their social skills.