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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL children may notice that this real-life example does not behave at all like the fish in some pop- ular story­books. Similarly, the rabbits at the pet- ting zoo don’t wear coats with gold buttons and drink tea. Experiences with living plants and an- imals can spur discussions about the difference between real and pretend. Likewise, in physical science children need to interact with materials, experiment, and observe the results. This helps dispel notions that scien- tific processes are magical. While a car viewed in a video game or on a cartoon show may jump vertically or fly through the air, the cars that chil- dren use on ramps that they have constructed in the classroom behave in consistent, predictable ways. Content Standards in STEM Education STEM education in children’s early years, which centers around science and mathematics, strongly supports learning in the content stan- dards for these disciplines. In science, there are three general areas: 1. physical science 2. life science 3. earth and space science Physical science includes the physical properties of materials, the movement of objects, and the forces that affect materials, such as magnetism and gravity. State preschool and kindergarten indicators that address physical science typically focus on the characteristics of objects—weight, shape, size, texture, color, form, and tempera- ture. In addition, movement-related concepts and actions are often addressed. These might include lifting, pushing, blowing, floating, and so forth. Indicators often suggest that young children engage in sensory experiences and sort objects by various properties. Since inquiry is considered a main focus in science, children should engage in many experiments that involve the physical attributes of materials and reveal how forces may affect them. Life science is concerned with living things—both plants and animals. It includes growth cycles, the environmental needs of plants and animals, hab- itats, and the observation of particular charac- teristics of various plants and animals. For young children, life science standards generally focus on the plants and animals in the children’s im- mediate environment. Indicators often include •• developing an awareness of the changes that occur as plants and animals grow, •• demonstrating appreciation and re- spect for plants and animals, •• differentiating between living and non- living (or real and pretend) things, and •• developing an understanding of the needs of various plants and animals. Earth science encompasses the study of the earth’s components, including patterns of change over time. For this reason, earth science standards generally incorporate the examination of ma- terials such as rocks, shells, and soil, as well as changes in the environment, including weather, seasons, and erosion. Space science is combined with this standard. It involves patterns of day and night and phenomena created by light, such as shadows and reflections (also part of physical sci- ence). Space science also involves observations of objects in space, such as the sun, moon, and stars. Preschool indicators under this standard might include •• awareness of the properties of earth materials, •• use of terminology to indicate day and night, •• exploration of how an individual’s actions may cause changes in materials, and •• observations about the weather. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL st e m e d u c at i o n 7