Stretch young minds with natural wonder

7th November 2003 at 00:00
Presenting an upbeat approach to science in the early years is the challenge being met by Mindstretchers, an educational consultancy and resource company that offers teachers courses on working in a multi-sensory environment.

"Above all, we hope to share a positive attitude and enthusiasm for experiential learning," says company director Claire Warden.

The courses and workshops aim to raise the confidence of practitioners so that they can develop their own understanding about some areas of science that intrigue children, as well as handling some of the awkward questions that youngsters can ask.

"Scientific and exploratory play can be motivational for staff and children in early years environments," says Ms Warden.

"The key is to allow ourselves to feel the awe and wonder at the simple things in our world. If we can explore the world around us in positive and exciting ways, then children will develop a lifelong attitude to and interest in science."

The approach at Mindstretchers' workshops is sensorial, motivational and linked directly to children's interests and frameworks of learning. The latter, says Ms Warden, are networks of ideas that have been created through life experiences and that are retained until a new piece of evidence comes along.

"When they start to vocalise this thinking we should listen," she says. The child's thoughts can be recorded in a notebook and then used to create the basis for a planning framework that is child-centred and responsive.

"By asking a three-year-old child challenging questions such as 'Why is the sky blue?' or 'How do leaves know when to fall off trees?' we enter their world of fascination with the functioning of the environment. By recording their thinking before, during and at the end of a block of investigation, we can gather evidence of learning through free and structured experiences."

The teacher's role is to encourage and facilitate the child's desire to explore and to deploy sensorial resources.

"It is also important to use environmentally friendly resources in order to ensure that they still have a world left to explore," warns Ms Warden.

Claire Warden talks on Science and Investigative Play at 11am, Nov 15

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