Science Knowledge & Skills

Science Knowledge & Skills refers to the emerging ability to gather information about the natural and physical world and organize that information into knowledge and theories. Science learning during the early childhood years encourages children to discover the world around them and refine their understanding of it.

Toolkit for Professional Development

Use the toolkit's Know, See, Do, and Improve sections to learn about and try best practices in science teaching at the early childhood level. Find tools to review and improve science teaching practices.

The materials in this toolkit are designed as professional development activities and resources. Head Start programs use a research-based curriculum, and some programs add a supplemental curriculum with a focus on math and science. This kit can add to, but not replace, a quality curriculum that offers clear content, well-designed learning activities, and a research-supported scope and sequence.

Know / Read About It

Find effective ways to teach science and fundamental science concepts to young children.

Key Concepts

Looking for "big picture" messages about teaching science to young children? These resources provide a quick overview.

Highlight Video: Science and Knowledge & Skills
Watch this short video to learn the elements of the Head Start science domain. See examples of teachers and children engaged in science learning.

Watch the entire Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework (HSCDELF) video.

See page 18 of the HSCDELF [PDF, 1.6MB] for more about the science domain elements.

Science Success: What and Why?
This presentation discusses key science skills and concepts for young children. It also describes the benefits of early science learning. Download the PowerPoint presentation [PPT, 60MB] and the presenter notes [PDF, 215KB].

Science Success: How?
The focus of this presentation is on ways that adults can encourage the development of children’s science skills. Download the PowerPoint presentation [PPT, 98MB] and the presenter notes [PDF, 269KB]

What We Know about Children’s Science Learning [PDF, 127KB]
This article presents the benefits of early science learning, plus effective teaching practices to support it.

What We Know about Improving Science Teaching [PDF, 119KB]
Want to boost teachers’ skills in teaching science? This overview offers some ideas about how to strengthen practices.

Selected Resources

The resources below provide more information about effective science teaching.

Front Porch Series Broadcast Calls on Science
The National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning's Front Porch Series includes presentations on science for young children. View the videos below:

Key Science Resources [PDF, 75KB]
Check out these resources on teaching science and young children’s science learning.

Science for Infants and Toddlers [PDF, 63KB]
These articles discuss ways to support infant and toddler science learning.

Curriculum Guides

Want help evaluating curriculum? These tools can guide program staff and leaders as they make curriculum decisions.

Choosing a Preschool Curriculum [PDF, 298KB]
This resource can help programs choose a preschool curriculum and assure high-quality implementation of it.

Curriculum, Assessment, and the Head Start Framework: An Alignment Review Tool [PDF, 298KB]
Learn to determine how well an early childhood assessment or curriculum aligns with the domains and domain elements of the HSCDELF.

See / Take a Look

Watch these NCQTL video clips from around the country to help you identify key science teaching practices in early childhood. This guide [PDF, 85KB] gives suggestions for ways to use the video to improve science teaching skills or learn new ones. Select the science concepts below to get started.

Scientific Skills & Method


Conceptual Knowledge of the Natural & Physical World

DO / Try It

These suggestions for classroom activities can enrich science learning. Teachers also can find ideas for ways to extend science activities to engage families.

Let's Practice! Staff Learning Activities

Use these activities to help teachers practice effective science teaching.

Using the Scientific Method
This NCQTL 15-minute in-service suite includes a five-minute video overview, a PowerPoint presentation, staff learning activities, and tips for teachers.

Science Topics Mind Map [PDF, 116KB]
Brainstorm science topics to teach to young children.

Science Talk Throughout the Day [PDF, 136KB]
What questions and observations promote children’s science thinking? Think ahead about words that support the development of children’s science skills.

Science Materials Around the Classroom [PDF, 64KB]
Use this activity to generate ideas about science materials to share throughout the classroom.

Science Books Mind Map [PDF, 124KB]
Teachers can practice finding science concepts in children’s books and brainstorm ways to use those books as part of a larger class investigation.

Observing on a Nature Walk [PDF, 105KB]
Invite teachers to practice observing the natural world and recording their observations. This exercise can help them guide children’s observations.

Water Play [PDF, 139KB]
In this activity, teachers play in water at the sensory table to learn what practices effectively guide children’s science investigations.

Real to Reel Research: Living in Relations
This video highlights science learning that is based on culture and community. Use these discussion questions [PDF, 111KB] to talk about how you can apply these ideas to your program.

Snapshots of Science Learning [PPT, 17MB]
Use these science-related photos in professional development activities for early childhood teachers.

Planning Tools

Find tools to support teachers in planning science activities.

Planning in Your Classroom: Facilitator Guide [PDF, 465KB]
This planning tool from the in-service suite Using the Scientific Method helps teachers and trainers be intentional about teaching the steps of the scientific method.

Classroom Resources

These suggestions for classroom activities can enrich math learning.

Marvelous Explorations through Science and Stories (MESS)
These 10 guides cover key science concepts and skills for preschool children. They offer background information on science topics, classroom activities, related learning activities in other domains, and suggestions for family participation. MESS was funded by the Office of Head Start (OHS) and developed by the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida.

Using the Scientific Method Poster [PDF, 100KB]
Hang this poster in a visible spot to provide reminders about the steps of the scientific method. It also offers suggestions for language to promote children’s inquiry.

News You Can Use: Take It Inside!
Discover ways to bring nature inside for infants and toddlers to explore.

Science Vocabulary [PDF, 80KB]
Need ideas about science words to introduce? Take a look at this vocabulary to support children’s science learning and skills.

Science Books for Preschool [PDF, 94KB]
Check out the science concepts you can teach with common preschool books.

Materials to Support Science Learning [PDF, 1.5MB]
You can add materials in many areas of the classroom to help children learn science concepts and practice skills. Check out these ideas!

Science Through Songs and Movement [PDF, 286KB]
Songs and movement activities are an easy way to expose children to science ideas. Here you’ll find common songs and active games to teach children about the natural world and help them practice science skills.

Families Too!

These tools can support teachers in planning math activities.

Tips for Families: Using the Scientific Method [PDF, 256KB]
Teachers can share this information with families to encourage them to explore with children and promote scientific thinking.

Nature Clubs for Families [PDF, 465KB]
Find planning tools and a list of the benefits of spending time outside. The toolkit cites evidence that children who play outdoors regularly in natural places are happier, healthier, and more self-confident—all keys to school success.

Engaging Families in Science

Watch these videos from the OHS science webcasts. The first addresses asking children to collect data as a way to engage families in science activities. Another stresses the importance of naturally occurring conversations that children have with family members about the natural and physical world.

Improve / Improving Your Practice

Strengthen science teaching by helping teachers review and refresh teaching practices with a peer, a coach, or a teaching team.

Tips in 10

Jump-Start Science [PDF, 244KB]
Engage early childhood teachers in science learning and reflection during staff meetings with these 10-minute professional development activities.

Taking It to the Classroom

Practice-Based Coaching Resources
Find an overview, research, tips, and ideas for coaching teachers in using effective teaching practices.

Last Reviewed: July 2015

Last Updated: January 6, 2017