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What constitutes an inquiry-based classroom?
A scientific inquiry-based classroom conveys an atmosphere that encourages children to
explore the scientific properties of material in many areas of the classroom.
Scientific learning is more complete and has greater depth when teachers capitalize
on the connections between science and other areas of the curriculum, including
the arts. Unique opportunities for the construction of scientific knowledge emerge
in various areas of the preschool classroom, the learning centers of a kindergarten
classroom, and projects designed by children.
Art Area: Children have many opportunities to observe changes in art materials,
such as how the adhesion capabilities of glue emerge as it dries. Art experiences also
allow children to explore new aspects related to the movement of objects, such as
blowing air through a straw to move paint across a paper.
Music Area: The music area provides unique opportunities for children to explore
the science of sound. They learn that size affects an instrument’s pitch (how high or
low it sounds) when they compare two sizes of the same instrument, such as large
and small triangles. Children also explore the relationship between the material
used to make an instrument and its tone quality.
Science Center: A special science area created as a permanent part of the class-
room, the science center allows children repeated opportunities to engage in scien-
tific inquiry as they examine displays and experiment with simple machines. For
instance, they may compare the attributes of different seeds and draw or write about
their observations. They can also alter certain aspects of their experimentation and
watch for changes in the outcome. For example, children might raise the height of
a ramp and observe how this affects the speed of cars rolling down it. Children can
return again and again to repeat the process and see if the results are the same.
Opportunities for children to better understand science and its relationship to their
world arise repeatedly in classrooms with emphasis on and encouragement of scien-
tific inquiry. Current content standards focus attention on scientific inquiry in the
areas of earth and space sciences, physical science, life science, and in some ways,
engineering. Why is scientific inquiry important in the early years?
According to the National Science Teachers Association Position Statement, “At an early
age, all children have the capacity and propensity to observe, explore, and discover the
world around them” (National Research Council 2012).
Young children have the capacity to learn science core ideas, yet many adults
fail to recognize those strengths or provide the rich experiences that fuel scien-
tific inquiry. Scientific inquiry at an early age leads to success in science during
UNDERSTANDING AND APPLYING SCIENCE STANDARDS FOR YOUNG CHILDREN