Effective Practice Guides

Scientific Inquiry: Know

Goals for Preschoolers

  • P-SCI 1. Child observes and describes observable phenomena (e.g., objects, materials, organisms, and events).
  • P-SCI 2. Child engages in scientific talk.
  • P-SCI 3. Child compares and categorizes observable phenomena.

Teaching Practices


Introduce vocabulary used to describe scientific processes and discoveries.
The 4-year-olds in Ms. Warren’s class have been learning about what floats and what sinks in water. Ms. Warren says, “Please keep track of your predictions and findings. You can document the results on this chart.” Rhonda says to Haroun, “The rock is dense so it will sink to the bottom. I need to write my prediction on the chart.” Ms. Warren writes down Rhonda’s prediction and makes a note to add “dense” and “katīm” (dense in Arabic) to the science word wall. 

Encourage children to use their senses to observe, compare, and categorize their discoveries.
Home visitors Mr. Prince and Ms. Duchamp are meeting to plan next week’s activities for the program’s group socialization session. Last time they read a book about the five senses, so they want to plan a follow-up activity. “Several parents suggested that we have feely bags,” says Ms. Duchamp. “Children can use their senses to figure out what’s inside. Their parents can contribute items for the bags. We can co-introduce the activity with them. Then, they can help the children document their findings.”


Provide tools to support children’s discoveries.
Last week, a nurse practitioner from the reservation health clinic visited the program to explain to the children what takes place during a check-up. She demonstrated how to use a stethoscope and let the children take turns using it. The clinic just updated their equipment so she left several older stethoscopes behind for the children’s use. Hazel puts on a stethoscope and listens to Abel’s heartbeat. “Can you hear it?” Abel asks. “I can,” says Hazel. “It goes lub dub, lub dub, lub dub.”

Provide measurement tools so children can identify similarities and differences.
During a home visit, Gino, age 4, and his mother, Ms. Pizzo, bake bread with their home visitor, Ms. Dean. Gino wants to put raisins in the bread. He looks at Ms. Dean. Ms. Dean says to Gino’s mom, “What do you think?” His mother nods and asks Gino, “How many raisins do you think we need?” “This many,” says Gino, pointing to the measuring cup. “That would be a lot,” says his mother. “How about we use half as much?” pointing to the ½ cup. “Okay,” says Gino, and fills the ½ cup with raisins. Ms. Dean smiles and says, “You helped Gino see the difference between the full cup and the half cup. I can’t wait to taste this bread!”


Share books, teach related vocabulary, and provide information and materials to help a child further explore an interest.
Janelle, almost 5, attends a Head Start program in Anchorage, Alaska. The program has invited an artist to sew and bead a giant Yup’ik-style slipper. Janelle is fascinated by the project. It’s her nature to become highly focused on a specific interest, delving into the content for a long period of time. She asks many questions about the size of the slipper and how it compares to the size of her own slippers. Her teacher, Ms. Chambers helps Janelle measure her own slipper to compare the size to the Yup’ik-style slipper. She also helps Janelle look up Yup’ik-style footwear online so she can learn more about the materials and tools used to make them.

Follow a child’s lead and offer plenty of time for exploring and discovering.
All the children are excited to see snow falling outside. They don’t often get snow in the areas where their families pick crops, so they are especially interested in this change in the weather. After a few minutes, all but one child returns to their play. Antonio, age 3, is still staring out the window. He asks, “Where did it come from? Where does it go?” Ms. Ferris, his family child care provider, says, “Let’s collect some snow in a bucket so you can get a better look at it. You can bring it inside if you'd like to see what happens when snow is indoors.” Antonio gets a bucket from the water table and Ms. Ferris places it outside the door. She then suggests they look at a book about different types of weather to learn more about snow while they wait for the bucket to fill.

Topic:School Readiness

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: June 5, 2018