Teaching Physics & Chemistry Concepts in Early Childhood

Instructor: Kimberly Uptmor

Kimberly has a bachelor's degree in Secondary Education: Science and has master's in Curriculum and Instruction. Currently, she teaches 7th grade through college level classes.

Science can be confusing, especially when teaching important physics and chemistry concepts to younger students. In this lesson, we discuss some concepts, strategies, and activities to help with this challenge.

Finding One's Way in Science

Have you ever been lost at night in the wilderness? You probably felt alone and lost. How did you get out of the situation? Most likely, you calmed yourself down for a moment and developed a plan of action. Maybe you thought to use the light on your phone to find the path you were on and trace back to familiar spots.

This is how many individuals feel when it comes to science. When learning difficult concepts, it may feel as if we are lost and alone. However, we can conquer those difficult concepts by using our skills, just as if we are using a flashlight and the familiar path.

Educators can help their students learn science, especially physics and chemistry, by beginning at an early age. Let's see some strategies.

Basic Concepts to Teach

When it comes to chemistry and physics, younger students learn very basic concepts of each subject. The hope is that they will be able to tackle higher concepts when they get older. These concepts include:

  • Vibrating materials can produce a sound that is in the form of a wave, a fluctuating particle of energy that travels through a medium like air or water. Light is also a wave. Both light and sound can be used to communicate over a long distance because they can travel through the air.
  • Materials are made from small particles called atoms. Depending on the temperature, materials can change to a solid, liquid, or gas because of the energy added or taken away from the tiny particles.
  • Electricity is charged particles within a current, while magnetism is a force that causes attraction or repulsion based on the charged particles. Electricity can make objects magnetic, while magnetism can make electricity in a current.

Teaching the Skills to Learn Science

To prepare them for high school science classes, try to work on critical thinking and problem-solving, communication and collaboration, and literacy with younger students.

Critical thinking and problem-solving allows the student to ask questions, investigate them, and make observations to draw conclusions. This can be taught to students by giving students more opportunities to explore science using inquiry-based learning, an active form of learning where questions are brought up and researched through readings or experimentation rather than the teacher giving facts in a lecture.

Communication and collaboration are skills that can be gained by having students work together on experiments. This gives students the opportunity to brainstorm together on how to go about their investigations.

Also, educators should help their students communicate their findings using words. Science notebooks can help students write down their discoveries and observations during the research project. Students that can talk and write about their findings are set up to excel in science.

Reading a book can help develop scientific literacy skills.
Reading a book.

Lastly, science literacy is understanding the general concepts and methods of science enough to follow along in books, media, or any other sort of presentation on the subject. Students who are in the higher grades need scientific literacy to perform research that is beyond the classroom doors, such as cancer studies.

Educators can encourage these skills by reading a trade book to students within their class. Many books are available on animals, space, and even the human body. Check the internet numerous resources including TV shows that can teach the basic concepts of science. Once students develop this skill, they will be able to go beyond their textbook to understand scientific concepts.

Physics and Chemistry Activities

Here are some sample activities to engage students and help them conquer science concepts at a young age.

Communicating with Light

Most students know what a lighthouse is but may not know that its purpose is to communicate to ships out at sea. When teaching about light, you can give students a problem to solve.

Most students communicate using their voice and sound. What happens if there was no sound? Students will have to use their critical thinking and problem-solving skills to come up with a plan of action. Most students will discover that they can use signs that their eyes can see.

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