Physics for 4-year-olds: Promoting open and focussed exploration for young children in everyday contexts

David Quinn, Lynn Chapman

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)


    This chapter, and the initiative it describes, is a result of the authors’ work in training teachers both at a pre-service level (initial teacher training) and in continuing professional development with practicing teachers. We have developed the project, Physics for four year olds, over the past three years, trialled it in teacher training contexts and presented it in nursery settings with young children.
    Our motivation in devising the scheme derives firstly from a concern that children – and for that matter many adults – do not always have a clear understanding of many basic scientific concepts, and we feel that the best place to address this is in the early stages of formal education. Secondly, we often encounter teachers of young children who feel that they lack confidence in teaching science, particularly in how to take children’s learning further, and whether they are ‘doing it right’: We furthermore provide a means for teachers to build on children’s learning in science and curiosity and gently prompt them to move to the next stage, when appropriate.
    In section one, we take an overview of the problem with science teaching – a tendency for children to be taught to pass examinations and therefore not be inspired to really understand: and that they may be taught without consideration of their prior experiences and ideas, which can act as barriers to a scientific understanding of the world. We then consider learning theories and how these have helped us come to a greater understanding of how children learn. In section two, we look at how one particular strategy that is firmly rooted in constructivism, the 5E constructivist framework (Bybee, 1997), can be used to structure a teaching sequence. Finally in section three, we show practical examples of how the 5E instructional model can be developed to provide teaching frameworks and strategies to promote deep learning in nursery settings.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationScience Education at the Nexus of Theory and Practice
    Subtitle of host publication(New Directions in Mathematics and Science Education)
    EditorsYew Jin Lee, Aik Ling Tan
    PublisherSense Publishers
    Number of pages25
    ISBN (Print)9087904207, 978-9087904203
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


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