It’s never too early to talk science!

08/23/2010  |  THERESA KEWLEY
teaching through travel

The South Florida Science Museum believes that it is never too early to talk science!  That is why our 7ft tall Senor Stuffee is so popular among our young visitors.  The Senor Stuffee program is designed to stimulate science inquiry and exploration.  Senor Stuffee is a large, child-friendly, “stuffed” doll whom the young children enjoy climbing on and exploring inside and out.  This doll introduces young children to human anatomy, personal health and hygiene, and healthy eating habits in an age-appropriate hands-on manner.

From the time a child is conceived, they are exploring and interacting with their environment.  This is how all living organisms learn to coexist.  As both a parent and an early learning educator, I cannot stress enough how important it is to fill a child’s world with inquiry based dialogue, age appropriate activities and exploratory play.  Always encourage children to ask questions, make their own observations and conduct their own investigations.  This hands-on approach will help their developing problem-solving skills. Remember, children learn best when using as many of their five senses as possible: see the lemon, touch the lemon, smell the lemon, taste the lemon, hear and take part in dialogue about the lemon. 

Our new early learning childhood program, “Museum & Me,” is designed to reflect the South Florida Science Museum’s philosophy of exciting a child’s curiosity and furthering the understanding and appreciation of science and technology with age appropriate activities and play.  By exposing children to science at an early age, using open-ended questions, hands-on-experiences, as well as cause and effect experimentation, the South Florida Science Museum is helping children to develop a love of learning as well as creating important and necessary connections in the learning process.  An early learning childhood teacher should not control the entire experience or the conversation.  Instead the children should be encouraged by the teacher to help create the conversation and to formulate their own ideas and observations. For example, while showing a baby alligator to the class, a teacher might begin with an open-ended question, such as:  “Why do you think baby alligators have stripes?” Each child should then be allowed to express their thoughts on the subject without any corrections.  For example, if a child thinks that the mommy alligator paints the stripes on the baby alligator, the teacher should ask why the mommy might do that.  Always allow the child to make their own connections and hypothesis.  A teacher can guide the conversation without controlling it.  Always encourage young children, try not to correct them or their words when they are expressing their ideas.  This will not only build a child’s confidence it will model the problem solving process for them.

The “Museum & Me” program provides developmentally appropriate hands-on activities to children between the ages of 18 months and 4 years.  This program is led by knowledgeable teachers with early learning childhood experience as well as early learning certifications.  By involving parents and guardians in the educational process, our program capitalizes on the concept of modeling to encourage young children to ask questions and gather knowledge.  This is because young children can learn a tremendous amount about their surroundings through modeling.  When an adult reads, visits the museum, makes an observation, and asks questions, we are modeling the importance of seeking knowledge for the sheer pleasure of learning. 

Theresa Kewley is the Early learning Coordinator for the South Florida Science Museum.
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