“Presidents.” “St. 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.
The curriculum is coherent as each lesson builds on the previous one and provides the foundation for the next day’s lesson. Thus, skills and knowledge are logically and appropriately sequenced ensuring an ever-increasing base from which to learn more.
Each day’s lesson focuses on the 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 Core.
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. Lucia French.
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:
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.
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 research on Creative Curriculum by the US Dept. of Education found no gains by students. 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.