As you search for the best preschool in the Hudson Valley, make sure to find ine that incorporates easy math and science projects.
In the meantime, you can work on these subjects at home.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Starting a collection of leaves found on a hike. Noticing how many footsteps it takes to walk to the mailbox. Measuring flour to make cookies with mom. The natural curiosity of a preschooler includes an innate desire to explore math and science concepts. But recent research suggests there is a huge opportunity being missed when it comes to the classroom experiences of preschoolers in these areas.
“The big message is that math and science is not being supported in the preschool classroom. If you see something it’s pretty basic like counting or matching,” says Kimberly Brenneman, Assistant Research Professor at the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). “We’d love teachers to go beyond the calendar and weather.”
A July 2009 report issued by the National Research Council (NRC) called for “a major national initiative to improve early childhood mathematics education.” The report goes on to say that opportunities for preschoolers to learn mathematics are inadequate. The NRC’s findings along with research like a March 2009 NIEER brief on mathematics and science in preschool has caused educators and parents to reevaluate how these subjects are being taught to 3 and 4-year-olds. “As a society, it is increasingly important to be scientifically literate, math literate, technologically literate,” says Brenneman. “It’s becoming less and less possible to participate in society without these skills.”
Brenneman says there has been a lasting payoff for early childhood education in other areas, like literacy, so the same possibility exists with math and science. “Kids are so excited by math and science. Let’s take advantage of it,” says Brenneman, who is also a science advisor for “Sid the Science Kid” on PBS television. “No one has told preschoolers that they have to be scared by math and science or that it’s hard.”
From preschool age up to teens: Fun math and science games to do at home.
Missing the mark
A lack of professional development for teachers in the subjects of math and science, anxiety about teaching the subject matter, and apprehension on how to fit more into an already busy preschool day, have all been identified as reasons the gap is occurring between what is being taught and what could be taught to this age group. Brenneman emphasizes that it is important to promote a better understanding of what research findings call for when they emphasize expanding math and science for preschoolers and how teachers can integrate it into their classroom.
For example, Brenneman looks at current situations within the preschool classroom that lend themselves to learning opportunities. She gives the example of passing out napkins for snack time as a way for a preschool teacher to include working through operations with numbers. By accounting for the number of students that are absent, a teacher can help students figure out how many napkins are needed if they usually have ten students and two are absent that day. Brenneman emphasizes that the expectation is not to sit and do equations with the children but to reason with them about numbers.
“Too often it is the case that parents and teachers of young children feel inadequate in their own understanding of math and science or have negative past experiences that color their view of these subjects, and therefore, they avoid them,” says Karen Bell, Associate Dean of the School of Education at SUNY New Paltz. “This thinking leads to the notion that children are not ready.”
Bell adds that, “Just as children need many experiences with words and letter symbols, so too they need many different experiences in math and science. Almost everything we do has a connection to math and science, and these simply need to be made more visible.” Bell says that there are a considerable amount of mathematics and science experiences that are appropriate for preschoolers. She emphasizes that teachers and parents need to recognize how to extend a child’s thinking to promote math and science skill development.
Janine Boldrin is a freelance writer who lives in West Point, NY with her husband and three children.
Click here to find fun local education programs for your preschooler.