Last week we talked about a Sensory Play Area in your classroom. In this area, children often have the opportunity to learn some science concepts such as what sinks and what floats or what happens when you mix sand and water. This week, we’ll talk about extending into a full-fledged Science Area.
Obviously, in our toddler or preschool Science Area, we’re not going to include a chemistry set or anything else hazardous. But, this is a great place for children to start learning about the world around them and about experimentation and basic scientific processes.
Because children will be learning about making careful observations and thinking deeply about what they are doing, the Science Area should be in a quieter section of the classroom. Ideally, it would be on a hard surface, for ease of cleaning, but with a washable rug for comfort. Generally, children will be sitting at a small table or standing in this area, but it’s also always nice to have a comfortable area on the floor to sit or lie down, if desired. Your Science Area should have some low shelves to separate it from the other learning areas and to neatly store your science tools and materials.
Your Science Area should be rotated frequently, but also have space available for long-term experiments to remain undisturbed. You can rotate the materials according to your weekly or monthly theme and also with the seasons. The goal of the Science Area is for children to explore the environment around them, so seasonal activities are very important. Just make sure you provide a balance between varied activities and long-term observations.
Tools and/or activities for a Science Area could include:
- Local seasonal items like leaves, pine cones, acorns, and snow.
- Rocks and shells.
- Seeds or plants to grow.
- Pets, insect farms, or an aquarium (with everything treated humanely and provided with veterinary care as appropriate).
- Scales and balances.
- Magnifying glasses.
- Magnets and magnetic and non-magnetic materials.
- Color paddles and color wheels.
- Rulers and measuring tapes.
- Science books.
- “Tornado tube” with plastic bottles.
- Posters of nature, weather, etc.
- Gears, ramps, and pulleys.
- Paper or notepads and pencils for taking notes.