Frame and Objectives

It is now widely recognized that it is important for 5-8 year-old children (preschool and first primary school years) to be involved in science and environmental teaching, regarding content and process. From the extensive argumentation that has been developed, one can cite arguments like the following:

  • Children naturally enjoy observing and thinking about nature.

  • Children’s involvement in science and environment teaching nurtures positive attitudes towards them.

  • Science is an effective tool for cultivating scientific and hands-on skills, as well as scientific thinking.

  • Early exposure to natural phenomena leads to a better understanding of scientific concepts taught later in a formal way. In addition, the use of scientific language, at an early age, influences the development of scientific concepts.

To deeply understand children’s science learning, one should look not only at learning that takes place in the kindergarten and primary school, but also at learning that takes place out-of-school. It is very important to think about the time young children spend outside the classroom and how "life experiences" have profound effects on their achievements in school, as well as in their social activity. Additionally, we should take seriously into account that the benefits of learning in non-formal settings can be integrated into the effects of formal learning. On the other hand, a variety of methods and characteristics of non-formal learning – like a learner’s active involvement, choice on learning, inquiry and problem solving – are now incorporated in formal learning processes.

Research and educational practice has identified various out-of-school learning settings such as fields and gardens, parks and schoolyards. A number of structured learning activities in science and technology museums and planetariums, botanic gardens, zoos and aquaria, environmental education and awareness centers have been reported. In these settings, young children interact with the natural and the structured environment, while their interest is activated, and cultivate inquiry skills and understanding of natural phenomena and ultimately the world around them. Research underscores that teaching in non-formal settings, when it is properly conceived, adequately planned, well performed and effectively followed up, offers learners’ opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills in ways that add value to their everyday experiences in the classroom. Additionally, all these out-of-school learning settings yield a variety of cognitive, affective, social, and behavioral impacts on preschool children that make significant contributions to learning. Obviously, all these learning benefits in non-formal settings are not confined to students. By broadening the experience of the real world and cultivating scientific skills, out-of-school settings contribute significantly to appreciate science as a process of understanding the world around us. Moreover, science is perceived as an important element of human activity and culture.

Experiencing science education in the real world and understanding its function enhance the positive attitudes towards environment, by adding to understanding feelings like admiration, respect, devotion and awe. Furthermore, science plays an important role in understanding the scientific principles underpinning environmental issues and problems. Early education in science contributes to a critical assessment of social and environmental impacts both of scientific ideas and technological applications. The big challenge, in this case, is to cultivate the notion that we are inextricably connected to the natural world and transform that feeling to pro-environmental values, stable and long lasting attitudes and behaviors.

Going beyond the limits between formal and non-formal education, between school and environment, fosters internal learning motives such as curiosity, enthusiasm and interest. It also activates children and reinforces the desire for science learning.

We are organizing the 7th Conference on the Teaching of Science in pre-school age in our country. That fact might signal the consolidation of a research community that systematically deals with this research topic. The inclusion of in-service preschool teachers in this community is of equal importance, as they contribute significantly to scientific research and educational applications in early childhood education.

Our conference aims to:

  • Bring together mature and young researchers, in-service and prospective teachers, as well as science education policy makers, in order to discuss old and new ideas about science and environmental teaching in preschool and primary school years.

  • Present and discuss educational research in early years and its value in educational practice.

  • Discuss the problems of science and environmental education in kindergarten and propose solutions to improve its efficiency.

The main topics that will be presented at the conference are research and educational practice on:

  • Perceptions and representations of young children and preschool teachers about scientific concepts and phenomena

  • The development of scientific skills in young children

  • Teachers’ perceptions and attitudes about early childhood science education

  • Design and evaluation of educational interventions and science teaching materials in early years. The use of ITC in early years’ science teaching

  • Science, interdisciplinary approaches and curricula in young children’s education from a "new school" perspective

  • Teachers’ training in early years’ science teaching

  • Embedding out-of-school contexts in early years’ science and environmental teaching

  • Inquiry in natural and human made environments. Early years’ science teaching and environmental education

  • Scientific literacy and preschool education: science as a cultural product.

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