Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Elementary Science

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  • 0:04 What Are DAP?
  • 2:24 Strategies to Teach…
  • 3:37 Kindergarten
  • 4:38 Grade Three
  • 6:04 Teaching the Scientific Method
  • 7:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Tawnya Eash

Tawnya has a master's degree in early childhood education and teaches all subjects at an elementary school.

Looking to become an elementary teacher in Florida? Check out this lesson on developmentally appropriate practices for teaching science as you prepare for your teacher certification.

What Are DAP?

Through your student teaching experiences, you have probably heard the phrase 'developmentally appropriate practices' quite often. Just what does this mean exactly? Developmentally Appropriate Practices (DAP) are approaches you take as an educator to provide students with meaningful, grade-level experiences that foster learning. In your research, planning, and delivery of lessons, students should be able to work on materials just at or above their developmental level.

Your school's curriculum for grades Pre-K to 3, as well as your knowledge of developmentally appropriate practices, will help you plan for activities that keep your students engaged and learning at the appropriate level. Young children learn best through play and experience. They gain more knowledge through hands-on activities rather than direct instruction.

Here are some of the main principles of developmentally appropriate practices:

  1. Physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development are important.
  2. Learning and development can follow sequences.
  3. The rate of learning and development differs for each child.
  4. Biological maturation and experience affect learning and development.
  5. Early experiences have profound effects on learning and development.
  6. Abilities develop in complexity, self-regulation, and representation.
  7. Secure, consistent caregiver and peer relationships foster development.
  8. Social and cultural contexts affect learning and development.
  9. Children are actively engaged in learning in a variety of ways.
  10. Children develop self-regulation through play.
  11. Providing practice and a little challenge promote learning and development.
  12. Experience shape a child's disposition and behavior, which affects learning.

Students all have their own learning styles, interests, and backgrounds, which play a role in how a child develops and acquires new information. At such a young age, many factors influence a child's ability to learn. It's important to know each child and to teach the whole child, physically, emotionally, socially, and cognitively.

Let's take a look at developmentally appropriate practices you can use to teach your students science.

Strategies to Teach Students Basic Science

Most likely, your school in Florida will use the state's standards for science as well as their own curriculum for the content students are learning. The four main areas you will teach as a Pre-K to Third Grade educator include:

  1. Life Sciences
  2. Earth and Space Sciences
  3. Nature of Science
  4. Physical Science

When teaching content in these topics, you will want to incorporate the following strategies into your lesson plans for developmentally appropriate practices:

  • Use a variety of instructional approaches: focusing a lot on hands-on activities and science experiments
  • Create a positive rapport: know your students and provide encouragement and positive feedback
  • Be a good model: demonstrate appropriate behaviors and model educational content
  • Create extensions or challenges by using content slightly above their independent level
  • Provide scaffolding: use the gradual release model where you provide students with support and slowly take the level of support away as they work toward independence
  • Ask questions: encourage students to think about what they are doing or what's going on

Let's now check out some specific lessons that demonstrate the use of developmentally appropriate practices.


You observe a Kindergarten teacher as she helps her students explore how all animals are alike and different. You notice the following parts to her lesson:


She reads a book to the students while sitting in a circle on the carpet. The picture book tells a short story of how specific animals are alike and different.

Discussion and Modeling

The teacher asks students questions about what is alike and different between her and them. Then she draws pictures of examples in two separate columns.


Students sort pictures with a partner. They put pictures of things animals have in common on one side and pictures of things that are different in another column.

Independent Work

Each student creates a drawing of themselves and how they are unique.

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