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Teaching Life Science Concepts in Early Childhood

Instructor: Allyn Torres

Allyn has taught high school chemistry, and has a master's degree in curriculum and instruction.

In this lesson, you will learn about the strategies, activities, teaching materials, tools, and technology that can be used to teach elementary students about life science.

Miniature Scientists

Have you ever watched a small child toddle over to something undesirable that is laying on the ground? You watch him inspect the object. Then it starts getting interesting. He picks it up. This is usually when the child's parents notice and start heading towards him to take the gross object away. Inevitably, before the parent can get there, the child puts the object in his or her mouth while the parents yell, 'No!' in the background. This might not be any consolation to a parent whose child has just tasted something absolutely repulsive, but that child was actually engaging in scientific inquiry. From a very young age, children are curious about the world around them, and that curiosity typically begins with life science topics. Keep reading to learn more about how to teach children about life science in early childhood.

Strategies

It is important to make science fun when teaching young children. Many science concepts can be quite complex, and it's important that science be kept simple and engaging. A great way to teach life science, or the study of living things, is through the use of simple science experiments, which allow for the exploration of science concepts hands-on. Experiments can also be used to teach the Scientific Method by having children do research, form a hypothesis (when applicable), and come to conclusions. Another strategy for teaching life science is having children do science projects. Having students do a project in a science fair is a great way to get them involved and makes learning fun. Another strategy involves taking students outside to explore the nature around them. Nature can also be brought to them. Teachers can keep small animals and insects in the classroom for students to observe.

A child and teacher exploring nature
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Activities

A simple Internet search will return thousands of results for life science activities. An activity that can easily be conducted is having children explore the genetics within in their own family. This activity involves kids filling out a table about their own genetic traits (eye color, hair color, etc.) and those of their family members. Through this activity, students will be able to explore dominant and recessive traits.

Another activity that can be conducted is an animal adaptation matching card game. Students are given two sets of cards: one set with the name and picture of an animal and another set with descriptions of how these animals adapt to their environments. Students must match each animal to its adaptations.

A third activity that can be conducted is having children keep a nature journal like Charles Darwin did. In this activity, children will pick one plant species and one animal species that are native to the area in which they live. Over about three weeks, the child should return to those same few spots once a week and record the location, weather conditions, if they sighted the species, and any observations about the animal or plant. This will help them to learn how animals and plants adapt to their environments and evolve over time.

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