Teaching Physics and Astronomy in the Early Years

Recent research suggests that during their early-years children begin to construct science concepts of increasing complexity. From the educational perspective, there is a growing realization that appropriate scientific work can and should begin in infant classes as science in the early-years is expected to contribute to the formation of a background which will lead to better understanding of difficult scientific concepts and scientific phenomena studied later in a more formal way.

To create quality teaching and learning opportunities for the young learners, science education in the early childhood should be in knowledgeable hands. Early- years teachers themselves need to have science knowledge and pedagogical skills as well as the ability to appropriately synthesize the two. However research has found that non-science-specialist teachers, in their work, face several problems related to different factors.

In this colloquium I will present reasons for exposing children to science early in life, the aims of early-years education and ways to approach it. I will review teachers’ difficulties that have been identified by many years of research and I will present the work of our action research group composed of experienced early-years teachers and of a specialist in science. This group developed and implemented sequences of activities for the initiation of young children aged 4-6 into science. Finally I will present two of these sequences which concern concepts and phenomena of physics and astronomy and I will discuss their impact on children’s learning and attitudes as well as on the teachers’ knowledge and practices.