Early Childhood Hands-On Science Curriculum Development and Demonstration
Purpose: Over the last two decades, many studies have decried the state of student achievement in America, particularly in science and related disciplines. According to the 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress, overall student achievement in science has stayed the same since 1995, including at the 4th grade level, where only 29% of students scored at or above proficiency. There has also been very little systematic focus on science education in the preschool classroom. This may be partly due to the misperception that preschool children are too young to learn certain topics, including science. Recent efforts to apply research in the cognitive sciences to the preschool setting is beginning to change such misperceptions, but science still remains a marginal component of most preschool curricula. The goal of this project is to develop and obtain preliminary evidence of the potential impact of a comprehensive early science readiness curriculum and related teacher professional development.
Project Activities: The research team will develop and test a comprehensive early childhood curriculum and professional development program. Titled Early Childhood Hands-On Science, this curriculum builds on an existing core of science curriculum units already developed by the research team and pilot tested with selected preschool centers.
Products: The products from this project include a comprehensive early childhood science curriculum, and published papers.
Setting: The research will be conducted in Florida.
Population: Approximately 40 teachers (20 treatment, 20 control) and 800 children (400 treatment, 400 control) will participate in the study. They will be selected from Head Start programs that serve a relatively large percentage of minority and low income children.
Intervention: The research team will develop and test a comprehensive early childhood curriculum and professional development program. Titled Early Childhood Hands-On Science, this curriculum builds on an existing core of science curriculum units already developed by the research team and pilot tested with selected preschool centers. Currently, the curriculum consists of seven units covering age appropriate science concepts in an investigative and interactive format, with topics from life science and physical science. Pilot data suggest that to have an impact, all Early Childhood Hands-On Science units need to be expanded to include activities that reinforce not only science, but other school readiness domains as well. In addition, this needs to be done in such a way that teachers view the units as an integrated approach to the teaching of science and feel comfortable implementing these units as part of their daily classroom schedule, extending each unit across multiple days. Finally, review of the seven existing units reveals a lack of adequate coverage of the earth sciences. This project will build on existing data and experience to create and demonstrate the potential of an inquiry-based early childhood science readiness curriculum that will improve early childhood educators' capacity to guide science inquiry, thus supporting young children's overall cognitive development and school readiness in general, and enhanced science learning in particular.
Research Design and Methods: In this small field test, 40 teachers will be selected to participate in the study, 20 randomly assigned to the treatment group and 20 to the control group.
Control Condition: Teachers in the comparison group will continue the existing High Scope curriculum and related teacher professional development.
Key Measures: Measures of preschool science and other areas of school readiness will be assessed through the Galileo System for the Electronic Management of Learning. Galileo provides teachers with a method of continually evaluating children in multiple domains of school readiness, including nature and science. Two new assessment instruments will also be tested and validated: Prek-K Science Readiness Assessment (a direct assessment of children's science knowledge); and Teacher Practice in Preschool Science (a classroom walkthrough observation tool to capture changes in teacher practice in science instruction).
Data Analytic Strategy: Data analyses will include multilevel hierarchical linear modeling with children nested in classrooms.
Project Website: http://www.miamisci.org/echos/
Related IES Projects:Lens on Science: Development and Validation of a Computer-Administered, Adaptive, IRT-Based Science Assessment for Preschool Children (R305A090502) and ECHOS: Early Childhood Hands on Science (R305A100275)
Journal article, monograph, or newsletter
Nayfeld, I., Fuccillo, J., and Greenfield, D.B. (2013). Executive Functions in Early Learning: Extending the Relationship Between Executive Functions and School Readiness to Science. Learning and Individual Differences, 26: 81–88.