By the time they are ready to start elementary school, most preschoolers have experience using some sort of technology at home—cell phones, tablets, computers, game consoles, and DVD players. For many young children, video calls with family far away are an everyday occurrence—often multiple times a day.
This was true long before video calls skyrocketed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Now Zoom, FaceTime and Skype are everywhere. Preschools, churches and libraries are using videoconferencing to reach their young audiences, and kids are online more than ever.
There’s an opportunity in this to teach science and math in a way that might not be obvious at first glance. What if this medium not only delivered Sunday School and story time but provided an opportunity to learn about basic scientific principles behind the technology itself?
Here are a few simple ways to reinforce math and science skills with preschoolers through a video conferencing session with friends or family members:
Using a ruler or measuring tape, have the child stand 12 inches from the screen and have the person on the call do the same. Ask the child if he can see the caller. What other objects can he see on the screen in the background? Does he observe any activity on the other end? Have him take a picture of the screen. Repeat the process, increasing the distance from the screen by 6 inches each time and snapping a photo, until the child can no longer see the other caller. To share the results of the experiment, have him send the photos to the other caller, in succession from closest to farthest from the screen, providing guidance as needed.
Sit with the child in a well-lit room and place the call. Make sure the lighting on the other end of the call is sufficient to easily see the other caller. Ask the child what he sees in the room with the caller—objects, people, activity in the background. Next have the caller dim the lights so it’s harder to see them. What does the child see now? Is it easier to see the caller, or harder? What about objects or activity in the background? Why do you think that is? Do the same while the caller is positioned with their back to a window, casting their face into shadow. Invite the child to draw or color three pictures, illustrating the different levels of light from bright to medium to dark.
As the other caller tells a story or talks about their day, guide the child as he adjusts the volume setting by raising and lowering it slowly. Have him count off the number of levels from low to high and back again. At what number level does the sound become too loud? When is it too soft? When is it just right? Have the other caller do the same while you and the child read aloud from a story book. What volume adjustments, if any, does the child have to make in order to hear the caller when you introduce other sounds into the room (conversation, TV, doorbell) and vice versa? The child and caller can share which volume offered optimal sound levels.