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2006Research Conference | June 15–16

This conference highlighted the work of invited speakers, independent researchers who have received grant funds from the Institute of Education Sciences, and trainees supported through predoctoral training grants and postdoctoral fellowships. The presentations are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Education or the Institute of Education Sciences.
Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill
400 New Jersey Avenue, N.W.
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Learning Science through Inquiry in Kindergarten: Early Results from the Scientific Literacy Project

Ala Samarapungavan, Purdue University
Helen Patrick, Purdue University
Youli Mantzicopoulos, Purdue University

Abstract: The Scientific Literacy Project examines the effect on scientific inquiry and literacy activities on kindergarten science learning. This report summarizes some key research activities from the first year of the project. An inquiry-based curriculum unit designed to help kindergarten students learn about the nature of scientific inquiry as they studied the life cycle of the monarch butterfly was piloted in a public school serving a diverse student population (based on socio-economic indicators, ethnicity, and language). The unit introduced students to key aspects of scientific inquiry, such as generating questions, making predictions, collecting and recording observations, drawing conclusions from observations, and using inscriptional tools (e.g., science notebooks) to keep records of inquiry and to communicate the results of inquiry. The unit was also designed to help students learn about big ideas in biology, such as classification, growth and development, structure and function, and adaptation. Two assessments of science learning, the Kindergarten Inquiry Portfolio Rubric and the Child Science Assessment, were piloted as well. For purposes of comparison, Child Science Assessment data were collected from the intervention group (after the inquiry unit was completed) and from a control group that was similar at the start of the year in its demographic characteristics and cognitive skills. Preliminary analyses indicate that there were statistically significant differences between the intervention and control groups, both in their understanding of scientific inquiry process as well as in their specific knowledge of important life science concepts such as biological classification, growth and development, and adaptation.