This project aims to deepen understanding of how to support and develop early childhood science learning by articulating science and engineering practices observed in children’s play. It also aims to develop early childhood educators’ abilities to identify and support nascent science and engineering practices with young children. Through this project early childhood educators will engage in professional learning using a refined version of the Science and Engineering Practices Observation Protocol (SciEPOP), an observation tool that allows researchers to identify and describe high-quality play-based engagement with science and engineering practices. Through video-rich professional learning along with peer-based coaching, early childhood educators will grow in their ability to prepare play environments, identify nascent science and engineering practices, enhance and extend investigations through play, and record and reflect upon this learning.
This project will develop a learning progression that characterizes how learners integrate and interrelate scientific argumentation, explanation and scientific modeling, building ever more sophisticated versions of practice over time using the three common elements of sense-making, persuading peers and developing consensus. The learning progression is constructed through students’ understanding of scientific practice as measured by their attention to generality of explanation, clarity of communication, audience understanding, evidentiary support, and mechanistic versus descriptive accounts.