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Preschool Learning Guidelines for Learning in Science and Technology/Engineering

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Overview of the Preschool Learning Guidelines for Learning in Science and Technology/Engineering

Young children are naturally curious. They wonder what things are called, how they work, and why things happen. The foundations of scientific learning lie in inquiry and exploration — these are the tools of active learning. Fostering young children’s sense of curiosity about the natural world around them can promote a lifelong interest in it. Scientific learning should not be limited to a particular “science time.” Early childhood teachers should look for opportunities to develop children’s understanding of scientific concepts in all content areas. To do so, children need to observe things first-hand as much as possible. The younger the children, the simpler and more concrete the activities need to be. Classrooms need to have scientifically accurate books about animals and their environments such as field guides, as well as fictional stories. In all activities, teachers should make sure they use, and encourage children to use, the precise language of science.

The skills and processes of inquiry and exploration are fundamental to all the sciences. At the early childhood level the processes of experimentation may require preparation of the classroom environment, routines and materials as well as attention to how children operate and utilize materials.

The Earth and Space Sciences describe the properties of the earth, ocean, atmosphere, and universe (what things are called; what they do; how they look, act, and react to various stimuli). It includes geology and astronomy.

  • Geology deals with the formation of the earth, its layers, forms and substances. Although young children can observe, discuss, and visit features of the earth such as mountains, lakes, beaches, oceans, rocks, and fossils, their concepts are limited to those things they experience repeatedly.
  • Astronomy deals with the universe beyond the earth’s atmosphere. Children can observe the cycle of day and night, the movement of the sun, the waxing and waning of the moon, and the stars in the sky.

The Physical Sciences investigate natural forces and the basic elements in natural substances.

  • Physics is the study of matter, energy, motion and force. It deals with speed, leverage, balance, gravity, and mechanical systems. Young children can grasp these concepts through exploratory play — they drop a toy and watch it fall to the floor; their unbalanced tower of blocks falls over; a cork floats in the water table while a rock sinks. Many repeated experiences help children grasp that these are predictable phenomena.
  • Chemistry deals with the composition, properties, and transformations of substances. For example, earth combined with water makes mud; play dough disintegrates in the water table; oil separates from salad dressing; sugar dissolves in liquid; food coloring combines with water. Through cooking, mixing, and art experiences, children can observe how chemical transformations take place through heat, moisture, and combining substances.

The Life Sciences include the study of living things (what they are, how they survive, their life cycles, how they change). Young children need concrete experiences that enable them to observe, categorize, compare, and contrast living things. The three major components of the life sciences are biology, physiology, and ecology.

  • Biology is the study of plants, animals, their structure, origin, growth, and reproduction.
  • Physiology deals with the processes and functions of living things. Children learn about these concepts by identifying parts of their bodies, learning about their five senses, and observing a variety of living creatures and plants.
  • Ecology deals with relationships between living things and their environment. Children can be taken on nature walks to see how living things have adapted to different environments.


Technology/Engineering involves finding out how things are constructed and work, and thinking about what can make them work differently/better. Science tries to understand the natural world; the goal of engineering is to solve practical problems through the development of technologies. Technologies developed through engineering include the systems that provide our houses with water and heat; roads, bridges, tunnels, and the cars that we drive; airplanes and spacecraft; cellular telephones; televisions and computers; many of today’s children’s toys, and systems that create special effects in movies.

Preschool children can begin to develop concepts in engineering as they design, build, and test solutions through their play — as they construct sand castles and build cities out of blocks. They can also begin to understand that tools help people do things better or more easily, or do some things that could otherwise not be done at all.

Learning Guidelines for English Language Arts

Preschool Standard

Links to K Standards

Inquiry Skills

1. Ask and seek out answers to questions about objects and events with the assistance of interested adults.

Link to Introduction, Inquiry skills

2. Make predictions about changed in materials or objects based on past experience.

Link to Introduction, Inquiry skills

3. Identify and use simple tools appropriately to extend observations.

Link to Introduction, Inquiry skills

4. Record observations and share ideas through simple forms of representation such as drawings.

Link to Introduction, Inquiry skills

Earth and Space Sciences

5. Compare and contrast natural materials such as water, rocks, soil, and living organisms using descriptive language.

Link to Earth’s Materials 1.1

6. Explore and discuss what air is or does (air takes up space inside bubbles and beach balls; air can move things; air can support things such as parachutes and kites).

Link to Earth’s Materials 1.2

7. Identify the characteristics of local weather based on first-hand observations.

Link to Weather 1.3

8. Explore sunlight and shadows and describe the effects of the sun or sunlight.

Link to the Sun as a Source of Light and Heat 1.4

9. Observe and describe or represent scientific phenomena meaningful to children's lives that have a repeating pattern (e.g., day and night)

Link to Periodic Phenomena 1.5

Life Sciences

10. Observe and identify the characteristics and needs of living things: humans, animals, and plants.

Link to Characteristics of Living Things 2.1

11. Investigate, describe, and compare the characteristics that differentiate living from non-living things.

Link to Characteristics of Living Things 2.2

12. Observe and describe plants, insects, and animals as they go through predictable life cycles.

Link to Characteristics of Living Things 2.3

13. Observe and describe ways in which many plants and animals closely resemble their parents in observed appearance.

Link to Heredity 2.4

14. Describe or represent living things that inhabited the earth years ago, as children express interest.

Link to Evolution and Biodiversity 2.5

Living Things & Their Environment

15. Use their senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste to explore their environment using sensory vocabulary.

Link to The Senses 2.6

16. Observe and describe seasonal changed in plants, animals and their personal lives.

Link to Living Things and Their Environment 2.7

17. Observe and describe how natural habitats provide for the basic needs of plants and animals with respect to shelter, food, water, air, and light.

Link to Living Things and Their Environment 2.8

The Physical Sciences

18. Manipulate a wide variety of familiar and unfamiliar objects to observe, describe, and compare their properties using appropriate language.

Link to Observable Properties of Objects 3.1

19. Explore, describe, and compare the properties of liquids and solids found in children's daily environment.

Link to States of Matter 3.2

20. Investigate and describe or demonstrate various ways that objects can move.

Link to Position and Motion of Objects 3.3

21. Explore and describe various actions that can change an object's motion such as pulling, pushing, twisting, rolling, and throwing.

Link to Position and Motion of Objects 3.4

22. Experiment with a variety of objects to determine when the objects can stand and ways that objects can be balanced.

Link to Position and Motion of Objects 3.5

Technology & Engineering

23. Explore and describe a wide variety of natural and man-made materials through sensory experiences.

Link to Safe and Proper Use of Materials and Tools 1.1, 1.2

24. Demonstrate and explain the safe and proper use of tools and materials.

Link to Safe and Proper Use of Tools and Materials standard 1.3

25. Explore and identify simple machines such as ramps, gears, wheels, pulleys, and levers through play experiences.

Link to Design 2.1

26. Observe and describe ways that animals, birds, and insects use various parts of their bodies to accomplish certain tasks and compare them to ways people would accomplish a similar task.

Link to Framework: Engineering Design 2.2


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