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Science Opportunities Are Everywhere

09 Aug 2022 by Isabella Henriksson

In this episode of Impacting the Classroom, our host Marnetta Larrimer talks to Dr. Daryl Greenfield of the University of Miami and Teachstone's own Veronica Fernandez. They discuss research on the importance of science in early education and how opportunities to explore the wonder of science with children are everywhere--even if you are not a scientist yourself. 

Our guests had so much to share that we didn't have time to fit it all in one episode! You can read the extended version of the podcast in the transcript below. 

Dr. Greenfield passed on a number of resources for educators, administrators, and parents interested in learning more about science education in the early years. You can check them out here: 

  • Our National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: Committee resources, archived webinars including one focused on preschool, slide decks, and a link to download a pdf version of the report for free: "Science and Engineering from Preschool through Elementary Grades: The Brilliance of Children and Strength of Educators.":
  • Early STEM Matters Policy Brief: A 2017 policy brief written for practitioners, funders,  policy makers and researchers, documenting the state of Preschool STEM: what we know now, a set of guiding principles and 6 sets of recommendations of where we need to be and how to get there. 
  • Early Science Initiative :  Includes information on"why science," an equity and justice approach for teachers and programs, and countless resources and materials. 
  • The Early Science Initiative Science Club: Science Club is an exclusive teacher Community of Practice (CoP) where teachers from all over the country get to see how science is implemented in other classrooms

 

Marnetta Larrimer : Hello listeners. We're back with another great conversation on impacting the classroom. If this is your first time joining us, this is a podcast where we dig into big topics that have an even bigger impact in early education. I am your host Marnetta Larrimer. Today. I'm joined with Dr. Daryl Greenfield, a professor of psychology and pediatrics at the university of Miami whose work is specifically focused. Sorry, <laugh> going back today. I'm joined with Dr. Daryl Greenfield, a professor of psychology and pediatrics at the university of Miami whose work is specifically focused on early childhood science education. Welcome, Dr. Greenfield.

Daryl Greenfield: Thank you. I'm very excited to be here.

Marnetta Larrimer: Wonderful. I'm also joined by my colleague. Teachstone senior director of social impact, Veronica Fernandez. Hey Veronica.

Veronica Fernandez: Hi.

Marnetta Larrimer: Now, Veronica, I understand that you and Dr. Greenfield have collaborated before. Tell us about your previous work at the University of Miami.

Veronica Fernandez: Absolutely. So Dr. Greenfield was actually one of my professors when I was in college, so we go way back and then he was my co-mentor in graduate school and we collaborated even after graduate school on many projects, we led several projects in Miami around the understanding and improving interactions for young children. And we were working on promoting equity for culturally and linguistically and racially diverse children within our community, which was a lot of fun. I miss him greatly, but I'm glad we get to continue collaborating.

Marnetta Larrimer: Wonderful. Dr. Greenfield, can you tell us about your experience working with Veronica Fernandez.

Daryl Greenfield: Veronica and I seem to have known each other forever. She pointed out she was an undergraduate at the university of Miami and was involved in research. We have projects where we, we want undergraduates to have the experience of hands on minds on research. So she was involved in a community research, working in the Miami-Dade community. She then when graduated got involved with, with a state funded project called our early learning coalitions, and we have one here in Miami-Dade county there's a number of, of work groups and she and I have been on a series of group work groups, bumped into each other all the time. <Laugh> and I slowly convinced her Veronica, you need to get a PhD, which she has done and has been an amazing contributor to the field of early childhood and continues to do so.

Marnetta Larrimer: We agree very lucky to have her here at Teachstone and thank you for your tutelage, right. And encouraging her with those further steps. So Dr. Greenfield, you're on the committee of enhancing science and engineering in pre-kindergarten through fifth grades. And your committee recently received released a 300 page report called science and engineering in preschool through elementary grades. Can you tell us what this paper is about?

Daryl Greenfield: So the, the national academies of science is engineering and medicine periodically produce what they refer to as a consensus volume is it's, it's a very serious piece of work. What they typically do is they try to find sponsors and they put together a committee who works somewhere from around a year and a half to two years. And they take a particular topic. There's a charge that is associated with the topics that we have in, it's not just some free form sort of thing, but we have a particular charge. And in a minute, I'll tell you what that charge charge was. And the committee represents for, for ours is science and engineering. So we have scientists, we have engineers, we have people working in early childhood and the preschool ages also in the elementary grades. We also have representatives from departments of education.

Daryl Greenfield: So there's teachers and, and practitioners. So it's a, a, a wide variety of stakeholders that put together this volume. And it's referred to as a consensus volume because we all agree with what is in there. And as I said, we usually spend somewhere around a year and a half to two years reviewing the research and understanding sort of where we are, where we need to go. So our two sponsors for this particular volume was the Carnegie corporation of New York and the Robin hood, a learning and technology fund. And the, the charge that they gave us was to provide guidance on sort of effective approaches to science and engineering instruction in preschool to fifth grade that supports success of all students. So briefly the report, the entire report is available for free as a PDF. You can download it for free.

We've also done a series of webinars for particular audiences. We did one for early childhood. So you can view those as well, but sort of quickly the charge was to look into what kinds of learning experiences prior to entering school will help prepare children for science and engineering learning. And in the elementary grades we were also to look at a promising instructional approaches for enhancing science and engineering and preschool through fifth grade. How can science and engineering be connected to, or integrated with other subject areas, such as math, computer science, English, language arts, what is the role of curriculum and instruction materials, what professional learning opportunities are needed? How do policies and practices at the national state and local level, either constrain or facilitate effort to enhance science in engineering and preschool to fifth grades. And then how are, what are the gaps in the current research and what are the key directions for research both short and long term to fulfill those gaps?

So our report is quite long, but it's divided into a series of chapters with each chapter focusing on sort of particular topic area that's highly relevant. So we have 10 chapters in total. The first chapter is an introduction in sort of lays the foundation for what our report is about. And it, it lists sort of all of our, our, our findings and recommendations. And then we go into the details of the work that we did. So we have a chapter on systems and structures. We have a chapter on contextual nature of learning, how children learn the development of, of, of children's proficiencies, a chapter on learning environments and instructional practices. One on integrating across domains, a chapter on sort of curriculum and instructional instructional materials a chapter on how to support educators, a chapter for leadership, for transforming leadership. And then our last chapter chapter 10 is really a list of our recommendations based on sort of the evidence.

Again, this is, this is very rigorous because the committee spent, our committee spent nearly two years reviewing research writing section to the report, everyone on the committee read the entire report and had to agree what, what was in it. And then after that, the academy sent the report out to a series of independent reviewers who read the report and really looked at the evidence and wanted to say, can we justify the recommendations that we made based on the evidence? And in some cases, you know, they told us, you know, we need to tone down a little bit, or we could say a little bit more in terms of sort of does the evidence support our recommendations and conclusions.

Marnetta Larrimer: Thank you so much for that. You mentioned earlier on about some gaps in the research. Can you expand on that? What did you guys discover?

Daryl Greenfield: So there's a fair amount of, of issues around sort of, for example, the potential role of science and engineering in creating equity and justice. And I will, I, I will talk a little bit about that with specific examples from the research that I'm doing in early childhood, but the, the, the basic concern is that we have demonstrated in the report that science and engineering are critical areas for students in terms of their ability to learn how to think, how to, how to problem solve. We know that that the problems of our future students are ones that we don't know, you know, potentially what those Mo might be. So we can't have students to simply have rote memorized information or have solutions that are very specific to what's already happened. Like science really is not so much about learning what we already know, but it's a method for learning what we don't know.

So one of the, the issues in the report is that although science and engineering is really critical, it's really undervalued. We don't ha have enough resources. We don't support it enough. And there's a fair number of recommendations, how to support teachers, what we, what we need support at the local, the state and national levels to be able to make science and engineering a more critical focus of not just the, the K12 system. But beginning even earlier in, in our report starts at preschool. But as we know, preschool is not necessarily a magic age where children start to, to learn about their world. You know, we need to, we need to start earlier, but our particular charge was focused from preschool through the elementary grades where science and engineering just is not happening enough. We need to build that foundation. You can't wait till the kids are teenagers to start to get them involved in, in science and engineers. And we need to, to have a greater representation among sort of the diversity of the population. It can't be just one single group that does science and engineering.

Marnetta Larrimer: Thank you for that. You talked about a lot of things there. You talked about, you know, rote and the importance of that process of learning and challenging children's thinking. Right. talk to us about how your research ties to CLASS, right? Because we have done some collaborations right with you. I know you were at, you were a keynote at one of our InterAct summits, and you really talked about how those things are interconnected and how CLASS supports science and math learning. Can you talk more about that?

Daryl Greenfield: Sure. So as, as you, you are aware and, and hopefully the audience is aware class is, is about the quality of, of interactions. And it's, it's not so much about necessarily what is being taught, although that is critical. It's really about setting the stage for children feeling comfortable and supported emotionally to to be able to feel a safe space, you know, to be able to learn. It's a, it's about, it's about sort of organizing the classroom activities so that there's not a lot of wasted time and also the critical piece for us. And I think this, the area that's that science and engineering shines is in the area of instructional support, you know, and not, not sort of focusing a huge amount of time on just rote learning a memorizing information seeing a teacher doing experiment, and then replicate that particular experiment demonstrate that you can come up with a correct answer.

Daryl Greenfield: So the, the science and engineering has actually gone through a sort of major transformation for how it is being taught in the K12 system that really sort, sort of supports the notion of, of the quality of interactions that CLASS emphasizes. So just sort, sort of like a brief history of this starting somewhere in, in the early two thousands the, my group that, that does the advanced placement tests were concerned by the fact that a lot of the students do well in an, in an advanced placement the in an advanced placement class, they take the test, but then when they go off to college there's they struggle. And it's also the case that a fair number of the brightest students don't want a career in engineering and science. So they began to look into this and the national academies of science is right afterwards, said, no, we just can't focus on high school.

We really need to think through, you know, starting saying kindergarten to get a better understanding of, of sort of the precursors in the foundation for this, when they put together a working group and that group put together a a, a set of recommendations. And they actually wrote a volume called taking science to school that was published in 2007. It got a lot of feedback from stakeholders that sort of a back and forth review. And what they basically said is that the reason the students are struggling, and the reason why students don't want to go into science and engineering as careers is that we are currently teaching. This was, you know, prior to, to when the volume came out, we're teaching science in a very disconnected way from students every day lives. And we're covering a huge number of, of topics and not in a very level of depth and understanding the description of sort of our science education system was it is a mile wide and an inch deep then just sort of, if you recall, if you were part of that education system, you probably recall you would spend six, seven weeks on a particular topic.

You would learn how to read a word problem and figure out like what's the critical pieces of information in that word problem that you would take out and extract and stick into a particular equation. You then, you know, grind out the equation, you get the quote, the correct answer. I mean, bright students can do that, but they didn't know how was that relevant. And then after that six or seven week period, you then switched to another topic that was completely disconnected from the previous topic and do that over and over again. So your education was, you know, learning to do some road sort of, sort of activity doing experiments where the teacher would, your science teacher would demonstrate something and see, can you get the same result that I got in my experiment? And as a consequence, students, like, why would I want to be a scientist or an engineer?

This is like boring. This is, you know, I spend my life doing this sort sort of stuff. So the, the, the initial volume that came out in 2007, taking science to school said, we really need to rethink how science is being taught. And what they argued for was science needs to be an active process. We need to engage the students in both hands on, so actively engaging in learning by doing as well as thinking about, you know, what are the principles that I'm, and the concepts that I'm acquiring as, as I'm doing science, and instead of covering a huge number of topics over, over the K-12 system, let's limit, the topics to ones that are highly critical for being a human human on our planet. So ideally we'll have some number of the students that think, yes, this is gonna be a good career, but in general, the whole goal was that anyone is in the K12 system, isn't gonna be exposed to science in a way that's gonna make them science illiterate.

They are, they are gonna know a deeper level, have a deeper level of understanding of some small set of topics that are highly relevant, you know, to I'm a human on this planet. How do I, how do I understand sort of the major topics? And if you, if you reminded about what's what science covers science is life science, right? So it's people, plants and animals, it's physical science, the properties of objects, like, so, you know materials what are the properties of, of materials and how do they interact with each other things like force and motion, you know, pushing, pulling, and so forth. What are the various sources? And then you have is the third topic earth and, and space science, which again is like, you know, what is your environment? You know, how do you, how do you, how do we, as humans interact with an environment to support it, support our planet?

How does our planet support us? And then they decided that it would, it's also critical to include the application of science. So they added engineering and technology as the fourth area. And they, they then said, what we'll do is, is we'll have a small number of topics that need to be learned starting in kindergarten, and even, you know, potentially earlier as I report argues for, by getting students to acquire this knowledge, these topics, not by rote learning, but by actually doing engaging in scientific practices and a small set of scientific practices were outlined. And they need to, to think about broad, important overarching concepts that are part of all of science, but in essence are ubiquitous to being a human on the planet. And interestingly, although the report was entitled taking science to school kindergarten through eighth grade, they actually had a whole chapter, chapter three that talked about as, as I mentioned, the fact that science doesn't start when you are in kindergarten, you know, young kids are, are ripe for engaging in science and engineering.

And then in 2012, what ended up happening a new framework, a conceptual framework for K12 science education came out and then various sorts of things happened at the national level during the Obama administration. There was a daylong symposium. There are a series of reports that would've been published. I was part of a group supported by, by the funders in Chicago. We created a report early stem matters, again, sort of laying out some general principles that were important, not just for science and engineering, but also early childhood. And we now, and just this past year through funding from Carnegie and the Robin hood foundation published this consensus volume about what are the issues? What do we know about science and engineering from preschool through the elementary grades and how do we, how do we begin to support and make that a greater influence?

Marnetta Larrimer: Thank you so much. So many things that tie to what we do here at Teachstone, right. How to intentionally integrate what children are learning scaffolding and questioning their responses and challenging their thinking, right. Getting them to use more higher order thinking those hands on experiences connected to the real, right? Like all of those things you were saying in what you stated, so that clear alignment of CLASS and that instructional support domain was very present in all of that. Thank you for tying that together for us. I'm just gonna say it's been a, a little bit since I've been in the classroom. Right. But I do remember that, you know, just working with colleagues or even as supporting them as coaches in my previous role, science is scary, especially when you don't have, like we lean into what's comfortable. Right. So how do we demystify science and make it more accessible for our ECE teachers to help, to encourage them, to engage children in science, learning, Veronica, you like

Daryl Greenfield: That? Perfect. I'm gonna move, move a little bit away from the report and talk about what we've been doing. And with infant toddlers and preschool, a children within the Educare learning network. So a couple of the foundations that are associated with Educare learning network created what they refer to as acceleration grants and 2002, if you're not at all familiar with the edge care learning network, there, we can give you a link to, to the, the website or our, our resources and list of our schools our, our provided, but the, the network started in 2002 with a program in Chicago and a program in Omaha and the network slowly expanded in 2007, Miami joined the network and, and Veronica and I were involved as sort of the local research partner for, for Miami when she was here.

And the, the network has slowly grown to our, now we're over 20 sites around the country. And in 2000, 2012, when the network reached its 10 year anniversary, a group of us from the network. And what's nice about the network is that we have researchers, we have practitioners, we have policy makers and we have funders, and we have the ability to, to really sort of think about how we can create these greater connections between research, policy practice and funding. And we decided let's put together a new 10 year plan to sort of think about like where we've been, but where we would like to go over the next 10 years. And that report was published in 2014. And it was very, very comprehensive. Lots of us worked on it for well over a year. And then the buffet early childhood fund said, this is, you know, a very comprehensive and important report, but it's really not gonna go anywhere without some funding.

So they decided to contribute funds to create what they referred to as acceleration grants to move this forward. And the acceleration grants could not be just one center. It had to be a number of centers working together. And they funded me to, to use science as the foundational focus for one of these acceleration grants, which we referred to as the early science initiative and what we end up doing. We, we initially go to the sites that are involved. We initially had four sites and we moved up to 14 sites. The pandemic has made this a little bit more difficult, but what we end up doing is when we go, we go visit a center for the first time, and these are all around the country. We started off just by telling the teachers who are sometimes embarrassed by the fact that you know, science is something we're supposed to be doing, but we don't really do it.

We are not really sure how we need to focus on language and literacy and math, but we end up saying like we just wanna sort of hang out for the first day or so, and just kind of see what's happening in your classroom. If you don't mind, we'd like to do a little bit, a bit of videotaping and take pictures. You know, we do that. And then, then when we meet with them for the training we present to them the framework, this K-12 framework, which we have adopted for early childhood and Veronica and I are applied developmental psychologists. So we are not gonna say, okay, let's go backwards. But rather let's look at infants and let's see the degree to which infants are behaving like scientists and engineers. And when you do that what you end up seeing is that they really are scientists and, and engineers.

And the reason for that is if you think about sort of maximizing opportunities for learning to occur, what you want to do is you wanna choose a topic that is engaging both physically and mentally, and is goal directed, motivated by the learner. You know, instead of telling the learner, I'm gonna make you learn something, you know, lots of people can learn things if they're forced to, but you know, they're not gonna to do more than what they need just to, you know, learn the basics. Whereas if someone is directly motivated goal directed and they want to learn the topic, they're gonna put a lot of effort in it, right? They're gonna be curious, they're gonna be, they're gonna show initiative. They're gonna show persistence, you know, these sort of important approaches to learning and executive function, sorts of skills. And you also want the learning to be collaborative.

We we've learned better with others as opposed to learning by ourselves. I mean, even college students, time for exam, or you, you go to medical school or an engineering school, you don't study for an exam by yourself. You study with a group, right? Because studying together with support from experts in various areas is always better. So I, if you think about what is, what is the, the thing that is most motivating and goal directed for, for young ones, infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, and, you know, even in the early elementary gauge to learn, it is the world that I've been born into, like sense making, right. And, and what, what is it about it's about people, plants, animals, right? That's life science. It's about the objects you interact with, you know, things that roll and bounce, whatever, you know, it happens when you mix two things together.

It's physical science, you know, it's like, you know, you go outside, it rained, you know, there's a puddle, you know, jumping in the puddles, there's a lot of fun, but then the sun comes out where the puddle go. So you've got earth and space science, and then there's always the engineering and technology. That's everywhere around us. You know, you put your hand, you know, you go to a bathroom in a, in a, in a public place. You put your hand under the water, turns on the towels, come out. You know, you go to a crosswalk, there's a little sort of a ramp with bubbles on it. You know, it's a lead into the crosswalk. You have a, a crosswalk area, you know, that has a pattern, you know, typically white, white, dark, white dark. And then you also have the, the light that follows the pattern, right?

It goes green, it goes yellow, it goes red. It repeats itself. And these are imp sort of important indicators for young kids because instead of like memorizing colors, you know, on, you know, on a piece of paper, what does green mean in our environment? Green means go, if you see a sign that's green, you know, okay, that's safe. I can go there. If you see a sign that's yellow, you know, that's caution. I need to be careful. If you see a sign that's red, you know there's something not so good there. I gotta be very, very careful don't really go there. So they're exposed to all these particular topics, you know, and they want to learn them because it's motivating, it's, it's, you know, sense making for them and, and what the framework does and what our adaptation of the, the framework does.

Daryl Greenfield: It says science opportunities are everywhere. And as a consequence take advantage of what children are interested in. Think about what the local context provides as opportunities, and think about the influence of culture, because culture influences how we learn and use those to teach kids about the world in which they live their everyday lived lives by engaging them and helping them understand these particular topics by engaging in practices, observing, describing, asking questions, trying to solve a particular problem. How do you plan and carry out an investigation to do that? What predictions do you think, you know, and the goal is to create a culture of inquiry in which every child is viewed as your opinion or your ideas matter, right? We're not going to, you know, say, well, one person, you know, this is what they say so way, I'll have to follow that.

And the basic goal of sciences is to sh share in a very equitable way everyone's ideas. And then you, then you document those ideas, you document the predictions and then, you know, you plan and carry out the investigation and see what happens. So it's a community in which everyone honors everyone else, and everyone is allowed to express. And again, by, by learning as a community, you learn better than trying to do that on your own. So as a consequence, what ends up happening this equity, injustice is built into the system. And what we end up doing is when we present the framework to the teachers, after we videotaped, and we give them some, you know, sort of simple exercises to do, initially, we then show them what's happening in their classroom. And we have them back the activities in the classroom onto the framework, like, what are, what are the kids learning about?

You know, when they're in free play, what are they trying to understand? And it's, you know, something about their world, how are they doing this? They're engaging in practices, right? They're planning and carrying out investigations. They're trying things they're observing and describing, or they're predicting what's gonna happen. And then there's concepts that, that are available to them. Like cause and effect happens everywhere. Patterns are everywhere, structure, function, relationships. You can, you know, tell what something does by, you know, looking at it structure. And, and if you actually look really, really closely, you know, at, at young infants, what are they, what are they doing? They wanna know what is this, right. And they're constantly asking questions, there's research by Michelle ARD. It's a society research and child development monograph, you know, in which she looks at children's questions. And you she's got a series of studies that she looks at, one of which is, is analyzing sort of the language that parents have in conversations with their children when they begin to speak, you know, and what she, what she shows in, in that monograph is that children once they begin to talk a year and after two years of age, they'll ask a hundred questions an hour, their parents, you know, parents like, you know, I can't wait till my child talks.

Daryl Greenfield: And then it's like, why, why, why, why all day 

Veronica Fernandez: I have a three year old. They're also, I'm, I'm, I'm living that right now. 

Daryl Greenfield: I have a three year old granddaughter I'm and I have two of them. I'm living that, that as well. So, you know, they want, they wanna know what is this, and they wanna know what does it do, right? So that's, that's again, kind of a structure function or a cause and effect relationship. And then they want, they want to engage actively in, in interacting so they wanna know what can I do with it. And so it ends up happening is when we show, show the teachers, the videos of their classroom, we ask back map it, they see the children are, are learning about people, plants, animals, objects, their world. So mean it's, it's the topics of science. They're doing it by engaging in practices. And it would be helpful if the adults support them and pointing out this was cause and effect, you know, look at the structure and the function.

And, and as a consequence, it's not going in and, and getting the teachers to say, okay, stop what you're doing. I'm giving you something totally different to do. You know, you gotta learn how to do something different. It's simply of getting them to see that their children are already doing science and engineering. And how do you support that? And one sort of easy way to, to sort of make a transition is a lot of the, the early childhood programs focus on themes. You know? So for a month, you'll have a theme, like a theme. It's like, you know, October will do pumpkins and there's some other theme and themes are nice, cuz kids are learning some things, but it's disconnected when you go to the next theme, there's no connection from the previous theme. Right. But if you take the topic like pumpkins or whatever, and you begin with an inquiry, you know, what are the questions that children have?

What do they wanna know about pumpkins? You, you can then create an inquiry in which you're answering those questions and you're pointing out causes in effect. You're pointing out like stability and change. Like, what is the out say, say the out, outside of the pumpkin, it's hard. You know, why does that have that structure when you open it up, what's inside, you know you let it sit out. It changes. So as you go to the next topic, you're gonna remind the kids like, you know, what's the cause and effect, what's the structure function. What are the patterns? And then now create sort of the continuity and in some sense much more sort of comprehensive sense of how the world works. So what, what, what the issue with the teacher is, is to get them in essence, to stick their toe in the water, right?

This is not ice water. It's warm, it's comfortable, you know, and get them to see their children as buing scientists and engineers, and then provide the support for them in terms of how do you scaffold, how, how do you support all these other areas? And what's also nice about the science and engineering is that language happens and it's not language of memorizing. A word is language that's relevant to the concepts that children are learning, you know, social, emotional aspects come into play because you have to work together. Like if kids are building, say a structure, a ramp structure in the, in the block area, there's not enough pieces for everyone to, you know, have their own ramp. So the kids have to collaborate. We've seen them build a common structure in the center and then each gets to make their own ramp going off in a slightly different direction.

Marnetta Larrimer: Now you said a lot of, you said a lot of great things. 

Daryl Greenfield: Other aspects come into play and we've actually published one of my former grad students. And I published a, an article showing that if you ask teachers to do a typical circle time a typical story book, reading, do some, a math activity, do a science activity. You design it any way you want, you wanted videotape it. And we had undergraduates who we trained to do class coding science, even when it's not very good. Science has higher levels of instructional support because you think when you're doing science, oh, we need to brainstorm. We need to get the kids to think about about, you know, what, what's the concepts that are involved here. So science actually is an excellent road to improve children's instructional support, because it's about, you know, as you, as you were saying, these, these high quality interactions that focus not on just so much compliance, which obviously is important, but focus on the quality of the classroom on quality teaching and learning.

Marnetta Larrimer: Thank you so much, Veronica. I'm itching to know your thoughts. Right. So with your experiences around, you know, science and the ECE <laugh> educator, what are you doing? And what has your experience been to help to make this easier for them?

Veronica Fernandez: Yeah, I think one of the things, a few things that they're all touched upon was this idea that science can be intimidating because the way we learned science back in the day, right, was a, was a lot of memorization of complicated facts. Right? And I think that in, in our evolution of science education, we've evolved from memorization to understanding right, and application into our real world. And those are a lot of the points that Daryl made. And I think that with educators, when they're nervous and they say, well, I didn't do that well in science, or I don't understand chemistry deeply. One of the things that we did in, in some of the workshops that Daryl was talking about is that we presented them with two scenarios, right? Because it's helpful for them to see the application in the real world. And we say, okay, the first scenario is an educator who really knows a lot of scientific facts.

 Like this person really knows everything there is to know about how grass grows, right? And she's walking with a child on a sidewalk and there's a crack in the sidewalk. And there's a little blade of grass that's sticking out of the sidewalk and a child says, Hmm, why is grass growing there? Right. This, a question that a child might ask, and this educator who knows everything there is to, to be about science goes into this whole explanation and tells the child why it is that it's growing and using scientific knowledge and bringing in scientific terms and giving all of that explanation. And the child just sort of looks at this educator is a little bit overwhelmed by the response. He goes, okay. And walks away, right? Scenario two, same thing. You have a curious little child who notices that a blade of grass is growing and ask the teacher.

Hmm. Why is grass growing there? And this educator doesn't know all the scientific facts, but pauses takes a moment to notice with the child gets down to this child's level. They observe the blade of grass together. The educator models, a series of questions, right. I wonder, I don't know why the grass is growing there. Where does grass typically grow? And they have these conversations about the grass and they notice the crack of the floor. They follow that crack. They, they label, they observe, they describe, they talk, they ask questions together. And the educator is willing to go on a learning journey with the child and says, I don't know, but let's find out together. And they go on that learning journey together. And when you reflect on which child benefits more from that interaction, is it the educator who knows all of those scientific facts who, you know, has a master's degree in chemistry, or is it the educator who is willing to engage in interactions that are intentional and learn alongside the child?

Right. So we, we do a lot of other things through those conversations, but it's helping educators to understand that willingness is more important than a, a knowledge bank of scientific facts. So if we can get educators to understand that and be more willing to just learn alongside children, to know that they don't have to have all of the facts, but just be willing to slow down, to pause, to notice, to observe, to talk to label, to describe, to ask questions, to test things out, even if it doesn't work out to revisit and try it out again, that's where the magic of scientific thinking and learning happens for young children.

Marnetta Larrimer: Most definitely. So we want those, we want educators to be cur just as curious, right. Remember their toddler years, right. <Laugh> get dirty, <laugh> move things, right. Like have that same curiosity and interest and yeah. That para that then everything else is like a parallel process, right? Like of learning together, those open ended questions, cuz you're trying to figure that out and learn too. So you can scaffold the child's learning like, yeah. I like, I like what both of you guys said so much information in there for our early childhood educators to really lean into science as more of what it is, right. It's easily accessible. They're doing it already, but it's the how of how that happens and what we do with that that really elevates what's happening in those classrooms.

Daryl Greenfield: The, the what, what Veronica said is, is really sort of critical. And we even tell teachers like, if you know the answer, don't tell the child the answer <laugh> instead, that's a great question. You know, how, how can we, we discover the answer to together and again, what, what, what's nice about this framework that we've adapted the K12 framework, we call it the early science framework. What's nice about the framework is that it's consistent. So children learn how to ask and answer their own questions and how to engage in, in problem solving, how, how to plan and carry out investigations or how, how to as an engineer to design a pro prototype and test it and see where it fails and then redesign to make it better. And, and because the, the framework is, you know, learning important content by doing, and by thinking it applies everywhere.

So, you know, the issue of, of engaging families and parents, you know, is not like you have to teach them a separate language. It's again, getting them to see how their children are engaged in science and engineering at the home. So like the typical parent will think I shouldn't be doing science because it's hard. And besides you need aptitude for it, science and math, you know, only older boys can do this. And you know, if I go, if I wanna do a science experiment, I have to go to the store and there's all these choices, you know, which is the best one to purchase. I don't really know. And then I want, I have to pay for it, then I'm not sure how to do it. I'm sure I'll do it wrong. There's probably one and only one correct way to do it.

And the kids will ask me questions and I don't know the answer, and it's gonna make a mess and it's gonna take time and I don't have time for this. So like, you know, this is probably a bad idea, but in reality, children are, are engaged in science and engineering as part of everyday routines. So again, it's making it visible to the parents that what's happening yet at home. Like how do you get to school? Like getting up in the morning, having breakfast, brush your teeth, going to sleep and so forth. All the daily routines and activities that are happening, like cooking, you know, has the science in it. And if you get, get the adults to sort of see and support that, then you can create these wonderful opportunities for parents and, and the children love, you know, the attention instead of like, okay, I gotta make dinner, go, you know, go and don't get into trouble.

Well, I'm doing that, you know, get the, my oldest grandchild. Who's, who's now five when she was two, she, she was the sous chef. You know, she initially she would mix things and then she started to measure and you know, and she's at the point now as a five year old, she decides on what what's going into the pancakes for fr for Friday or Sunday on the, on the weekend. And starting out like as a two and a three year old as a fussy eater, she came like, mama, I, I made that. Why aren't you trying that I made that you have to, you have to try and taste that. And because the, the, the, the framework is not a canned curriculum and what we do, we work in communities that with partners of programs, you know, we, we don't go in as experts.

Daryl Greenfield: They have expertise, you know, to, to, to share with us. They know what's practical. They know what's happening. They know what they can do, and what the capabilities of their children are. What you can end up doing is not only co-constructing the curriculum based on the teachers what the, what the kids are interested in the classroom and the local context and the culture, you can do the same thing at, at what's happening at home and gather information from the families and bring that information into the classroom. So not only do you have a school to home connection, you can have very strong home to school connections. So the children see what's happening in the classroom. That's, what's happening in my home. That's the kinds of things that we're doing, you know, so it creates sort of this common language and it teaches kids, you know, not stuff as, as Veronica says, not memorizing a whole bunch of complicated stuff. It teaches them how to think it teaches them how to problem solve with a system that is continually growing the practices become the, the practices don't change the cross counting concepts, don't change the content. Doesn't change. You just get a deeper and deeper understanding of how to engage in practices, a better understanding of, of the nature of the concepts as you acquire, you know, this, this content, which is now limited, but highly important, you know, to being an adult who is science and engineering literate.

Marnetta Larrimer: I love that. Thank you so much. And I love how you wove those connections together and how that can happen more organically for children, for them to get more of the science into their days. And for family to recognize those opportunities. We don't have a lot of time left, and I still have so much stuff to ask, but <laugh> one of the things I really wanted to touch on before. We left was the primary reason for the paper being written and the work around equity and justice through science and engineering. I'd love to read aloud this excerpt from the intro, although a group of academics and educators who support and study how young children make sense of an engage in science and engineering is unlikely to end systemic justice. Such a group can use their expertise to try to work toward justice locally and societally. So that resonated for me, right, as a person of color with, you know, children of color, can you break that down for us? What can an educator do to work toward justice when it comes to teaching science and engineering?

Daryl Greenfield: So what we did in our report is we tried to, to broaden the understanding of what is science and, and engineering and why it's so critical. So we in terms of our, our approach in, in the report for equity and justice, we argue for increasing opportunities and access to high quality science and engineering, learning, and instruction, you know, starting at an early age to emphasize increased achievement, representation, and identification with science and engineering. So right now and the way we were sort of taught science, smart kids can do it, but they don't identify with it. They like, I, I can do this. I can get an a in this class, but I'm not a scientist and I'm not an engineer. So we want children. And students, as they grow to identify like, you know, this is me, this is something I can do.

I can think, I, I wanna learn about, about my world. I wanna make sense of, of, of who I am and the people and the plants and the animals, everything around me. So I want to, to be able to get sense that, that I am a scientist and engineer. We also want to sort of expand what constitutes science and engineering. So it's not something that's done one and only one way, there's multiple ways. And if you go to sort of, sort of the website that was created for our report, it's again, is entitled science engineering from preschool through the elementary grades, the brilliance of children and strength of educators. We go to what says our work. You can see a number of presentations and a number of, of papers that, that we commissioned, you know, that show science, you know, from indigenous populations, lots of different ways to do science.

It doesn't have to be an experiment in, you know, in the classroom. And then also seeing science and engineering as part of the sort of justice of movement. So that's sort of what, what we ended up writing in, in the report. And there's a number of things that, that that teachers can do. So we want them to understand why science and engineering need to be a critical focus in early childhood. You know, it's an op it takes advantage of what children wanna learn. It takes advantage of what they're already doing, and it teaches them, them these important skills. And it's not like, okay, we do science for 20 minutes. Now we have to stop. We have to do math. We have to do language and literacy. It's, it's all built into that because, you know, when you, when you are doing science, like you, you wanna know, like, this is bigger, how much bigger, or this is more, well, how many more?

I mean, now you're engaging in math. Like there's an object in the bathtub or, or in the water table, you know, drops down to the bottom. Some of this other stuff stays at the top. Like, you know, what is that? Well, we can give you a name for that concept sink or float. So language occurs children tend to be more persistent and more curious and more flexible when they want to learn something. And science, you know, is what they're motivated to do. So the whole notion of, of why science is critical, get them to, to, and, you know, we can give them access to our website where, where we sort of lay out what, what this early science framework looks like. It's learning to be good observers of, of young kids watch them. What are they doing? They may even infants may start, start, start out, sort of randomly interacting.

They bump into some object, but quickly, you know, they're intentional. What is this? What does it, do? You know, what can I do with it? And it's important to have this greater alignment in coherence, from preschool to the elementary grade. So, you know, by adopting this notion of let's watch children, let's support their, their knowledge building in these content areas, by engaging them and doing and thinking, you know, it's gonna help prepare the children. And then we work with, you know, lots of at risk populations prepare the children, you know, so when they go off to elementary school kindergarten, oh, wait a minute, this is something totally different. Then we've done before. And by really understanding there's not one and only one way to do science. You know, you, if you think about science and engineering, as opportunities for children to take advantage of what they're interested in, and, you know, it's the science topics to do it in a way that advantages, what is there?

What's their local context, right? You, the moon is made of green cheese. That's nice, but we're not going to the moon, right? What's what, right in front of you, what is your context provided? And, you know, there are concepts that are gonna be ubiquitous to you as a person on the planet cause and effect it's everywhere, structure, function, stability, and change, you know, patterns to begin to get adults, to, to slowly see all their young children as scientists and engineers, and then get help scaffolding and supporting that both at home and at school and, you know, wherever the opportunities take place, you know, going to museums, going, you know, going for a walk outside, you know, going to the park playgrounds or great, great opportunities to, you know, to, to look at engineering and technology. So the, the goal is to get, get the, the adults and young children's lives to see them as engineers and scientists, to be good observers, see what the kids are interested in and support that learning. And it's going to be sense making it's gonna be science and engineering.

Marnetta Larrimer: Veronica, did you wanna add anything?

Veronica Fernandez: I just think something important that Daryl's bringing up is about both meeting children and educators, where they are. Right. So bringing scientific thinking to their learning is not about with young children, right. Is not about saying, okay, now it's science time, right? I'm gonna teach you about science. It's about thinking, thinking about what it is that children are learning, thinking about what they're interested in, thinking about other concepts that they need to learn and bringing in scientific thinking as a process of inquiry, how do we ask questions? How do we observe? What do we notice? How do we try things out? What do we learn when we try things out? How do we communicate what we found? How do we try again? How do we make adjustments in order to potentially get at our desired outcomes? Right. So I think a lot of times when educators think about science, they think about, oh, kids are not ready and that's intimidating.

But some of the things that Daryl was talking about, it's like opportunities throughout the daily routine, right during hand washing. If we slow down and notice, there's so many opportunities to ask questions, to get children, to notice cause and effect during diaper, during meal time. I remember when my daughter was really young she was playing with her cereal and she would usually just eat it dry. And then she got a little bit older. We started doing the cereal and milk thing. And I guess we were distracted in the cereal, sat in the milk for a while. And she took a spoonful and she spit it out immediately. And I took that as an opportunity for science nerding. And I said, oh, is the texture different? Did that, did that cereal get soggy? It was so strange for her. Right? Because when she first started eating, it was so crunchy, that thing she was familiar with and all of a sudden it got soggy and it was different.

Right. So because I have this background in science and of course it's a teachable moment for my child. And I, we had a conversation about texture. She wasn't totally understanding everything, but I was describing her experience through this lens of science. Then we were able to get a fresh cheer and one that we plucked out from her milk and we touched it and she explored it. And is she gonna walk away with deep understanding around texture and the effect that milk has on things? No, but she had that experience early on. She was able to touch it was relevant to something she had just experienced. So just bringing that intentionality to everyday interactions and routines that we have with children.

Marnetta Larrimer: Yeah. It creates a foundation to build on. Right. So cuz it gives you something to connect to at a further day, as you elevate her understanding of those concepts. So wonderful. Yeah. You gotta love teachable moments. 

Daryl Greenfield: Additional comment. What, what, what Veronica said was critical and, and the issue is meeting both children and adults where they are. We never want it to be one size fits all, like find, okay, now we all do science and everyone does it the same way. The teacher and the student are individuals they're somewhere and you can't, you know, just say, okay, now everyone, all the adults need to learn this now. And all the students need to learn this. Now one, one of the great strengths of early childhood is the focus on, you know, individualization, you know, finding out where this child is, what does this child need? But every learner it's important for every learner. The same thing is true with the adults. You know, some, some of the teachers will jump in and think, you know, the science thing is great and they'll move quickly.

Others will move more slowly. Others will sort of just sort of wait and see what it looks like. But you know, the goal is to meet everybody where they are and make sure that you individualize instruction and don't force something that either the child or the adult is not ready for, or even, you know, give them something that, that they already know. I mean, one, one of the issues with, with why sometimes good early childhood programs fade out is that you know, they go into kindergarten and first grade and the teacher has, has an expectation of what they should know. They already know it. You know, they show it, show it off to the teacher, but then the teacher doesn't think, well, this child already knows this what's next. I need to push them. You know, as opposed to, you know, they're happy to tell 'em to count to 10. They can like this, my five year old granddaughter goes one, two, skip a few 99, a hundred

Marnetta Larrimer: You're, you're absolutely right. Both of you, right. Meeting them where they are being in tune. Right? When we talk about educator sensitivity and just really knowing your children, where they are meeting them, where they are individually supporting them <laugh> through their processes. And the another way science and technology in CLASS are just perfect together. <Laugh> thank you guys for joining me today. I enjoyed talking about how CLASS supports science and math learning the importance of the importance of, and how early childhood educators can get more science into their day, how science shows up in our everyday lives, but also how to work toward justice through science and engineering, you can find today's episode and transcript on our website. Teachstone.Com/Impacting we're off for the next couple of weeks for summer vacation, but we'll be back on August 2nd and as always behind great leading and teaching are powerful interactions. Let's build that culture together. Thanks guys.

Daryl Greenfield: Thank you again. This was a pleasure.

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