ScienceStart! Preschool Integrated
Curriculum For School Districts and Preschools
Valentine” “T Rex and Triceratops”
Obviously this is a
random string of words.
But? Anything else?
It’s likely to be a preschool
teacher’s outline of the lesson plan for the second or third week of February.
As preschools replaced daycare centers, classroom activities
shifted from predominantly play to a mix of play and teaching. However, with little guidance as to what
would be important to teach, individual teachers or groups of teachers at the
same location typically created ‘lesson plans’ in one of several ways. Often, lessons were driven by the calendar – Presidents’
Day and Valentines Day occur within a few days of each other. Other times - under the guise of early
literacy - they were driven by ‘the
letter of the week’ and all lessons were about something that began with a
particular letter; in five days, the class might learn about fish,
firefighters, frogs, flowers, and friends.
Other times, lessons were integrated around a particular theme – one or
two weeks about bugs, or space, or ponds.
Unfortunately, after more than 30 years of research addressing
the importance and effectiveness of PreK, most teaching in preschool is still
organized around random or near-random content.
Even commercially available curricula are not organized to help children
develop a content-rich knowledge base.
The ScienceStart! Preschool Curriculum assures that children develop a rich
knowledge base about their everyday world at the same time they develop skills
in scientific reasoning, mathematics, language and literacy. It is based on research in child
development and contemporary learning theory and builds on children’s
developmental need to understand their everyday world.
Using a simplified cycle of scientific reasoning (reflect
and ask, plan and predict, act and observe, report and reflect), ScienceStart! provides detailed daily preschool lesson plans. It engages children in carefully structured and sequenced investigations
of the natural world, including topics such as light, properties of matter,
simple machines, plants, and animals. At the same time, children also develop
science skills such as prediction, measurement, comparison, interpreting
observations, and explaining findings.
Each day’s lesson focuses on scientific exploration of the natural world.
The content of each day’s topic is integrated into all parts of the classroom
day, including. This exploration integrates
all of the activities of a typical preschool day, including art, read-aloud,
math, language and literacy, center based play, large group time, and small-
and large-motor activities.
The preschool curriculum meets standards set by states and by professional
organizations such as the Next Generation Science Standards (NSTA/NGSS) American
Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the National Council of
Teachers of English (NCTE), and Common
Based on Research: This developmentally appropriate
curriculum is based on theories of human development, particularly those of
Vygotsky and Piaget and the expertise of the lead developer of ScienceStart! Prof.
Supported by Research: The National Science Foundation and the US Department
of Education funded Prof. French in developing this preschool curriculum as well as extensive research into its
effectiveness. Classroom observation and
pre- and post-tests of students demonstrated statistically significant gains in
both ordinary and ‘high-level’ vocabulary, age-appropriate literacy skills
including phonological awareness, print awareness, and alphabetic awareness.
Children in Head Start classrooms demonstrated similar gains.
Scope and Sequence is the means by which the
curriculum is translated into a series of lessons and activities that make
sense in terms of learning and content development. Scope and Sequence will
reflect what a curriculum emphasizes, be it integrated or experiential
learning or a disconnected topic based approach. In preschool and
elementary school scope and sequence should reflect what we know about child
development, how children learn (never at the same pace) and the careful
sequencing of skills and content that logically flow from one to the other.
Implementation Fidelity can be a forbidding phrase
but at its simplest it is a way to demonstrate that the teacher is following a
curriculum so that the desired student outcomes can be achieved. ScienceStart! is an open-ended preschool curriculum
that allows teachers and students to seek out their own topics to investigate at the same time they follow a particular approach to organizing these investigations. View the
ScienceStart! Implementation Fidelity Checklist.
ScienceStart!, Creative Curriculum, and High Scope An internet search of the effectiveness of various
preschool programs found many opinions but few rigorous research based studies.
We reviewed Creative Curriculum, High Scope and ScienceStart!. ScienceStart! is relatively
recent and has not been evaluated for effectiveness except by Prof. French at
University of Rochester. A review of
High Scope’s claim
for effectiveness is based on research undertaken as part of the Perry project
in the early 1970s. Rather than a focus
on particular content, the original High Scope curriculum was an approach to
learning that emphasized self-regulation or reflection, referred to as Plan, Do, Review. The 4-step science cycle used in
ScienceStart! incorporates this same type of reflective process.