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Why Cultivate Scientific Thinking in Children?

You're never too young to learn problem-solving and become an independent learner. A recent study of kindergarten-age children examined the development of scientific thinking in kindergarten. The study highlights a significant growth in scientific thinking at kindergarten age. While we may think 5-year-olds aren't likely to be critical thinkers, this study suggests that they are. They also found that teaching science, both skills and knowledge, seems feasible in kindergarten. Regardless of future career or life path, children will benefit from becoming better decision-makers.

An article in the American Journal of Physics about teaching scientific thinking skills states that in order for students to learn to properly apply scientific principles, they need to make appropriate decisions, implement them correctly, and assess whether their implementation has been satisfactory. This process of deciding, implementing and assessing can be taught to even the youngest students and is a life skill that pays off forever.

The Michigan State University Extension explains, "Scientific thinking skills include observing, asking questions, making predictions, testing ideas, documenting data and communicating thoughts." Some ideas that they recommend for developing scientific thinking in young children include asking open-ended questions and encouraging questioning. Since children have a natural sense of wonder outdoors, they recommend spending time outdoors. This provides a lot of opportunity for making discoveries and using the senses to feel, listen to, smell and taste all nature has to offer.

Becoming Critical Thinkers

Scientific literacy is less about the science facts one can recite and more about how one's brain is wired for thinking. "It's the brain wiring that I'm more interested in rather than the facts that come out of the curriculum or the lesson plan that's been proposed," says American astrophysicist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Helping children "wire" their brains for thinking involves teaching them to ask questions. It isn't really possible to "teach" critical thinking because it can only be learned through practice. Providing opportunities for students to experience problem-based learning helps them become critical thinkers.

Dr. Rachel Grieve is a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Tasmania, and she writes about teaching critical thinking. Dr. Grieve says, "Being able to actively consider and evaluate information, identify biases, examine the logic of arguments, and tolerate ambiguity until the evidence is in would allow many people from all backgrounds to make better decisions."

Becoming a Content Expert in Science

With a Master of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Science, you can advance your career and pursue positions in the classroom or as a curriculum specialist or instructional coordinator.

Southeastern Oklahoma State University has a 100-percent-online program for educators who want to obtain their M.Ed. in C&I – Science while continuing to work full time. This 30-credit-hour program can be completed in as few as 12 months and will prepare you to be a content expert in classroom science, learn to implement creative curriculum that stimulates student interests, and develop standards-based assessments.

Learn more about SOSU's online M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction – Science program.


Michigan State University: The Art of Scientific Thinking: Why Science Is Important for Early Childhood Development

The Conversation: Thinking Critically on Critical Thinking: Why Scientists' Skills Need to Spread

ScienceDirect: Individual Differences in the Development of Scientific Thinking in Kindergarten

ResearchGate: Teaching Scientific Thinking Skills

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