Module 1: Measurement and Mapping
These first two units introduce children to the practices and skills that are needed for science-oriented investigations. Teachers who are using ScienceStart! for the first time should use My School and My Friends followed by Learning to Measure. Teachers already familiar with the curriculum who are working with slightly more advanced students may decide to reduce My School and My Friends to 2 or 3 weeks and/or to substitute Autumn Science for Learning to Measure.
Unit 1: My School and My Friends
In all preschool classrooms, teachers and children begin the school year with activities that help children get to know one another, build a community of learners, and introduce the daily structure and procedures of the classroom.
In the My School and My Friends unit, these typical goals are embedded and practiced within activities that introduce children to the basic science skills they will be using throughout the year. The four-step science cycle is introduced, with an emphasis on basic science activities such as
- Asking questions and collecting data to answer them
- Recording and analyzing findings by using graphic representations such as drawings, charts, lists and checklists
- Using counting and comparison to answer questions
Unit 2: Learning to Measure
In the Learning to Measure unit, children continue to develop basic science skills by focusing on ways of measuring distance, volume, and weight using both standard and non-standard measuring tools. There is continued use of the four-step science cycle, with the introduction of planning how to investigate a question and predicting the findings. Measurement activities support children’s learning of specialized vocabulary (for example, more, less, heavier, lighter, longer, shorter) and emphasize the skills of comparison and counting.
Supplementary Unit: Autumn Science
In the Autumn Science unit, children investigate seasonal changes in weather and weather’s effects on people and animals. In addition to this focus on content, each lesson follows the four-step science cycle. Children learn and practice the skills of observation, description, comparison, and sorting. They use a variety of methods to measure distance/length, weight, and volume and are exposed to the specialized vocabulary needed to talk about relative measurement (for example, bigger/smaller; shorter/longer). They record their data on graphs and charts and then use these representations as the basis for drawing conclusions.
Module 2: Color and Light
These two units continue to support children’s practicing the four-part science cycle and a variety of skills associated with science investigations (e.g., observation, description, representation, and comparison). They also have the opportunity to learn the specialized vocabulary associated with the science processes and content. The science content addresses color and light, two central components of children’s everyday experience.
Unit 3: Color
A frequent goal for preschoolers is that they learn to name/identify common colors. With the Color unit, preschoolers meet and exceed this simple goal. They gain an advanced understanding of how colors are related to one another (for example, how primary colors combine to create secondary colors and how there can be many shades of the same color).
Children talk with adults and other children as they participate in multiple activities using color. This talk (or discourse) allows children to practice the appropriate high-level vocabulary associated with combining colors. Children experience and practice the important scientific activity of replication as they use a variety of different materials (e.g., colored water, paint, playdough) to explore the outcomes of mixing two primary colors.
Unit 4: Light, Shadows and Reflections
Just as fish may not notice water, humans take light for granted. Yet light is a central aspect of how humans perceive the world. When young children are encouraged to notice light and the variety of ways it appears, they are prepared to observe their world more deeply, gain important concepts, and learn the vocabulary to talk about these concepts.
Activities in the Light, Shadows, and Reflections unit offer children multiple opportunities to explore sources of light. They experiment with how light travels by investigating what materials light moves through, the shadows of a variety of objects, and how different objects reflect light. They investigate and compare shadows and reflections. As in other units, they practice the cycle of scientific reasoning, make comparisons, sort experiences into categories, and anticipate the results of actions they are planning.
Module 3: Matter
The universe, including Earth and the plants and animals that inhabit it consists of matter. All living beings experience solids, liquids, and gases, but children are unlikely to reflect on their experiences with matter unless the topic is introduced by adults. When children are encouraged to observe and talk about matter, they begin to develop a deep understanding of the properties and characteristics of different states of matter. In talking about this conceptual understanding, children acquire high level vocabulary.
Unit 5: Properties of Matter
The Properties of Matter Unit introduces children to systematic exploration of solids, liquids and gases. They practice the cycle of scientific reasoning as they investigate and learn vocabulary to talk about the properties of and differences between solids, liquids, and gases and as they use changes in temperature to change materials from one state of matter to another.
Module 4: Living Things
From a very early age, children are attuned to the living things they encounter in their everyday life. This is particularly true for animals that children can interact with or watch moving. With direction, they can also easily realize that plants are living things. The three units on Living Things focus primarily on plants and animals that children can see and touch in their immediate environment or “neighborhood.”
Unit 6: Living Things in the Neighborhood
Children begin the Living Things in the Neighorhood unit by comparing and describing the differences between living and non-living things. They investigate the characteristics of local/neighborhood plants and animals and learn the similarities and differences between plants and animals. Working together, the children create a habitat for living things and ensure that it meets the needs of the plants and animals they put into this habitat.
In addition to practicing the cycle of scientific reasoning, children classify items as living or non-living and explain the reasons for their classifications. Throughout the unit, they answer questions based on their own investigations and also by consulting resources such as books. They begin to use graphs as a way to communicate their findings.
Unit 7: Plants in the Neighborhood
In the Plants in the Neighborhood unit, children investigate the parts of a plant, how seeds grow into plants, and how plants grow and develop. They explore ways that plants become food for people and other animals. They learn that trees are a type of plant and discuss ways that trees – living or turned into wood products – are a part of people’s daily life.
In addition to repeated practice in following the cycle of scientific reasoning, children begin learning to create a record and/or journal of their investigations as a way of sharing information with other people.
Unit 8: Animals in the Neighborhood
During the Animals in the Neighborhood unit, children focus on animal life in their neighborhood. They investigate a variety of wild animals that live nearby and learn how the local habitat meets their needs for food and shelter. These include mammals (for example, squirrels), birds, worms, and insects. Children spend one week on an in-depth investigation of mealworms, including an exploration of how they transition from eggs to larva to pupa to adult beetles. Local animals that are not wild – farm animals and pets – are also considered. What animals live on a farm? What animals can be pets? Why do people have farm animals and pets? How do they care for them?
In addition to practicing the cycle of scientific reasoning on a daily basis, children engage in comparison and classification, make charts and graphs of their findings, and explain their findings to other people.
Module 5: Movement and Machines
The investigation of motion is a central aspect of physics. What is motion? Are there different types of motion? What causes something to move? What causes something to stop moving? In the two units that make up this section, children first investigate the characteristics of movement, then investigate how machines can help people move things.
Unit 8: How Things Move
During the How Things Move unit, children and teachers explore how people move their own bodies. They then investigate how objects move. They talk about a variety of forces that influence movement, including gravity, pushing, and pulling.
As they continue using the cycle of scientific reasoning, children observe and describe the effects of common forces on objects, make and test predictions, then compare their findings to their predictions. They begin to formulate their own explanations for their findings and to discuss these explanations with other children and adults. As part of learning about movement, children learn the vocabulary to describe force (for example, gravity, pull, push, lift) and temporal/spatial relations (for example, next to, behind, in front of, on top of, underneath, before, after, while).
Unit 9: Simple Machines
During the Simple Machines unit, children investigate the characteristics and everyday uses of several simple machines. These include wheels, axles, levers, inclined planes and pulleys. They talk about what the word ‘work’ means, then explore and describe how simple machines make work easier. As they continue to follow the cycle of scientific reasoning, they practice comparison, measurement, and sorting.