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What Role Does Scientific Inquiry Play In Early Childhood Education

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Our kids are curious and introspective, always eager to point out the wonder in everyday things. When they ask “Why is the sky blue?” or express sheer amazement at a ball of Play-Doh, there’s much more going on than parents may realize. 

Along with motor skills, literacy, and expressive language, scientific inquiry is also an important part of early childhood development. Below, we’ll explore how to encourage scientific inquiry, and we’ll run through activities that help foster questions and curiosity. 

What Is Scientific Inquiry?

Scientific inquiry is the act of questioning nature and the world around us. As anyone who has met a 3-year-old knows all too well, children start this practice early on, asking about — well, sometimes, every single thing they notice, from birds in the sky to sounds from next door. 

Examples of scientific inquiry include questions like: 

  • How do trees grow so big?
  • Why do some animals have fur and others have scales?
  • What do my stuffed animals look like in real life?
  • Why does the moon look different tonight?
  • What is rain and where does it come from?

If your child is asking these questions at home, they’ve already adopted the practice of scientific inquiry. Now it’s time to stoke their curiosity. 

Why is Scientific Inquiry Important for Early Childhood Education?

Scientific inquiry is a key part of early childhood education; it teaches children to question the who, what, why, when, and how of nature, their peers, and every other aspect of everyday life.

According to the National Science Education Standards, students of all ages “should have the opportunity to use scientific inquiry and develop the ability to think and act in ways associated with inquiry, including asking questions, planning and conducting investigations, using appropriate tools and techniques to gather data, thinking critically and logically about relationships between evidence and explanations, constructing and analyzing alternative explanations, and communicating scientific arguments.”

By developing these skills, children will learn to think critically and piece together the world around them. 

Benefits of scientific inquiry on early childhood development

The key benefits of scientific inquiry on early childhood development include:

  • Understanding nature: Where do things come from? What do they do? 
  • Assessing their surroundings: What else can I see?
  • Learning to question: Why is it like this?
  • Teaching critical thinking: If this is the result, what else can I learn?

Communicating through actions

Even before toddlers can speak, they begin expressing curiosity through actions. You’ll notice this just by observing how they use their senses: touch, taste, smell, sights, and sounds. 

For instance, they might touch a new thing or try new food. Or, perhaps, they’ll shake something and react to the sound it makes. By exploring whatever’s in reach, they’ll begin to make important connections and draw larger observations. 

Understanding concepts and making decisions

Decision-making also develops early on. If your child is asking questions and pondering choices, they’re well on their way to cultivating their decision-making skills. 

There are four steps to critical thinking:

  1. Asking the question
  2. Hearing and understanding the answer
  3. Making a decision based on that understanding
  4. Acting consciously

We’ve all seen a toddler ask to pet the dog, waiting for the “yes,” and then proceeding with the petting. Even that simple act is a basic expression of critical thinking and decision-making. 

Early Childhood Education Programs: Vivvi’s Inquiry Model

At Vivvi, we use an inquiry-based learning model for our early childhood education programs. We observe how children interact with their environment and ask questions, then we take cues from whatever they’re expressing interest in. Our programs are tailored to what children want to learn, which in turn go a long way in stoking their natural sense of curiosity and inquisitiveness.

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