What does it take to close the achievement gap in science? Researchers in EDC’s Center for Children & Families would tell you that real solutions involve starting early. They’ve developed Foundations of Science Literacy, a college-level science course for preschool teachers. Foundations introduces fundamental concepts in the physical sciences at the adult level along with strategies for making the material fun and accessible for preschoolers.
To see its results, visit Jane Parfitt’s pre-K classroom at the Highland Park Childcare Center in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. Since taking the Foundations course, Parfitt has added new science activities and methods to her classroom repertoire. Today, her five year olds routinely experiment, observe, question, and record. They document what they learn and share it with others. In other words: They behave like scientists.
Parfitt welcomed the opportunity to shore up her knowledge of the physical sciences. And after more than 20 years in preschool classrooms, she finds that the course has reinvigorated her teaching. Armed with a better understanding of science concepts, she can more easily and clearly explain these concepts to the children.
The new emphasis on science has also had a noticeable effect on the children. “They are more focused, and they notice more,” Parfitt says. “We hear a lot of experimenting and ‘Look at this!’ They know I might ask them to draw what they are seeing, so they pay close attention and look for significance. They’re becoming very keen observers.”
EDC Vice President Joanne Brady sees the course as an important step in the national effort to close the achievement gap in science: “Teachers need content knowledge about the physical sciences so they can begin to learn how best to teach that content to preschoolers—and the most disenfranchised students are the most critical to reach early.”
Originally published on January 1, 2007