Early Science Initiative advances science in early learning

Scientific inquiry gives young children, especially those from at-risk backgrounds, an outlet to satisfy their natural curiosity, as well as strong motivation to explore and understand their world.

Through the Early Science Initiative Acceleration Grant, Educare researchers, school leaders, practitioners and partners are collaborating to promote and advance science as a foundational focus in early learning settings. Led by Dr. Daryl Greenfield from the University of Miami, Educare schools in Miami, Seattle and Omaha are developing a school-wide culture of inquiry through the integration of science content and pedagogy into embedded professional development and the classroom.

“We know that young children are highly capable of scientific thinking and, in fact, science is the ideal domain for them—it’s what children are most interested in,” says Dr. Greenfield. “They are trying to make sense of and understand how their world works.”

Supporting teachers through instructional guidance and embedded professional development

Unfortunately, many early childhood teachers lack confidence teaching science. The Early Science Initiative leverages Educare’s commitment to supporting teachers through instructional guidance and embedded professional development to continuously improve their practice and children’s learning. The initiative develops master teachers’ knowledge of science content and pedagogy, so they in turn support classroom teachers with planning and providing intentional science experiences. Built on children’s innate curiosity and active exploration, these experiences deepen, connect, and extend young children’s learning and understanding.

Master teachers participate in video conferences and in-person professional development experiences to help them integrate science content, pedagogy and scientific thinking into teachers’ lesson planning, coaching cycles and reflective practice groups. The goal of the Early Science Initiative is to move educators away from disconnected science activities toward comprehensive, intentionally planned and implemented learning experiences. This sets the foundation for future science education, critical thinking, problem-solving and learning across multiple domains of development.

In collaboration with the University of Miami, the Educare Learning Network and the Ounce of Prevention Fund guide the implementation of the Early Science Initiative into the Educare model to promote sustainability at the school and network levels. School leaders and practitioners at participating Educare schools facilitate the alignment of the Early Science Initiative within their respective school cultures.

The Early Science Initiative is already attracting attention from outside the Educare network, both locally in Miami and at the national level. To facilitate the future expansion of the initiative to other early childhood programs, the University of Miami team is developing a comprehensive, interactive web-based learning platform for knowledge building, reflective conversations and communities of practice in support of science education.

Additional Resources

Dr. Greenfield was one of five speakers at a recent White House Symposium on Early STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), where his remarks included reference to the Early Science Initiative. Read a handout describing the project and watch the White House video of the presentation. Dr. Greenfield’s remarks begin at 29:40 and the panel discussion begins at 54:45.

The Early Science Initiative was also one of the Acceleration Grants highlighted at the poster session at this year’s Educare Learning Network meeting in Atlanta.