Science in the Early Years Foundation Stage
At St. George’s Church of England Academy, a passion for science is ignited from the very beginning of a child's journey through our school, in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). Science skills and knowledge are taught both directly and indirectly through the ‘Understanding the World’, ‘Communication and Language’ and ‘Personal, Social and Emotional Development’ Early Learning Goals in the EYFS Curriculum.
Children are naturally drawn to science-based activities because they appeal to their innate curiosity and desire to make sense of the world. The best science activities for our children are often hands-on (and sometimes messy) and produce exciting (and sometimes unexpected) results! Children are encouraged to ask, as well as answer, ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions, observe their natural environment, make predictions about cause and effect and talk about the world around them.
During their first years at school, our children will explore animals, people, plants, and objects in their natural environments. They will observe and manipulate objects and materials to identity differences and similarities. They will also learn to use their five senses to gain an understanding of our world. For example, they will be encouraged to listen to the noises different farm animals make.
Children are provided with hands-on learning experiences to develop their science knowledge and skills as well improve their gross and fine-motor skills. For example, children might be challenged to increase the incline of a slope to observe how fast a vehicle travels down it or open a mechanical toy, using simple tools, to see how it works. Children will also be asked questions about what they think will happen to help them communicate, plan, investigate, record and simply evaluate findings.
Characteristics of Effective Learning
In the EYFS children use a range of ‘Characteristics of Effective Learning’ in their independent learning. These can be seen as complementing ‘Working Scientifically’.
- Playing and exploring – engagement
Finding out and exploring; playing with what they know; being willing to ‘have a go’
- Active learning – motivation
Being involved and concentrating; keep trying; enjoying achieving what they set out to do
- Creating and thinking critically – thinking
Having their own ideas; making links; choosing ways to do things
All children are challenged and encouraged to explore continuous provision. Where necessary, they are supported to access this physically and our teachers utilise these opportunities to develop children’s vocabulary.
- Water tray (floating, sinking, absorbency of materials)
- Sand tray/pit (consistency of materials, role play)
- Bug hunts (mats/logs to turn over, wild flowers and long grass)
- Construction area (junk modelling, different types of materials)
- Growing area (seeds, plants, minibeasts)
- Mud kitchen (consistency of materials, scented herbs, stones, minibeasts)
- Sound (musical instruments and sound)
- Small world (different animals, props, dolls’ house)
- Playdough area (birthday props/cake decorations to encourage talk about changing and growing)
A range of provision opportunities are provided each week for children to access during 'exploring time'. Provision areas are often based on the focus weekly text to provide a hook or may be linked to the current topic. For example, when learning about dinosaurs, the children experimented with torches and paddles. They explored how they could make a dinosaurs’ shadow change by holding the torch close to or far-away from the dinosaur and they explored shining the torch through a colour paddle to change the dinosaur’s colour.
Small world play with props encourages children to talk about where animals live, how to look after them and different environments. Using dolls house characters and furniture may give children opportunities to talk about families and changes as we get older.
Early Years teachers are highly skilled in scaffolding children’s learning through questioning and supported challenge. They encourage children to give explanations about what is happening and make predictions about what will come next.
Teacher led inputs
At St. George’s, our children enjoy short, visually-stimulating lessons that provide plenty of opportunities for hands-on learning. Lessons may involve observing changes over time. For example, children in Reception plant beans (linked to Jack and the beanstalk) and record the changes they see over a few weeks. They also have opportunities to see changes over shorter periods of time. For example, when learning about winter, they rescue animals trapped in ice balloons and cubes.
These are unplanned learning opportunities and arise from children’s comments and observations. For example, children might spot a rainbow, have a ladybird land on them or see snow falling!
Early Years staff utilise these opportunities by engaging with children’s knowledge, asking key questions and correcting any misconceptions.