Big Concepts for Small Fry
KET has provided us the materials and the training to do science in our classrooms on a regular basis without breaking our budget.
Carol Hughey – Principal, Oldham County Preschool
If you’ve ever been asked by an inquisitive, insistent little voice why the sky is blue or the grass is green, you know the challenges of teaching kids about the world around them.
Preschools—with their mandate to provide enriching science instruction in order to prepare youngsters for “the big school,” as Oldham County Preschool principal Carol Hughey says—are particularly cognizant of that difficulty.
“Science is a part of our curriculum, and early childhood definitely is the most important part of anybody’s formal schooling,” said Hughey, who presides over the county-wide preschool serving 340 children in two half-day programs. In this preschool, which is funded by both the state of Kentucky and Head Start, a federal initiative, more than half of the students have special needs.
“Early intervention is the best way to go. And if we can get a child hooked on learning when they’re here at preschool, that’s going to be a love that is going to stick with them as they go on to the big school. They’re going to want to continue to do it,” she said.
Teaching science is often a challenge for even the most creative teachers because it’s difficult to get past a beaker-and-lab vision of doing science experiments. Enter Everyday Science for Preschoolers, KET’s comprehensive instructional resource giving teachers the power to impart concepts from wildlife to weather—all with “tools” right at hand.
“Science is difficult because you typically think you have to have specific materials for it,” Hughey said. “We have a limited funding source. KET has provided us the materials and the training to do science in our classrooms on a regular basis without breaking our budget.”
Actually, Hughey emphasizes, very little is taken from their budget for Everyday Science. The preschool is able to use donations, such as paper-towel tubes, to construct “binoculars” for little explorers to use outside when investigating the changes a tree undergoes throughout the school year. If the topic is what color you get when you mix blue and yellow, then food coloring, water, spray bottles, and old printer paper are marvelous tools for making stained-glass windows and discovering the answer to that question.
“Everyday Science is also very age-appropriate, and it’’s packed full of learning,” Hughey said. “Everything’s laid out, all I need are a few other ingredients and I’m set to go. That’s what makes it a tremendous aid to all of the staff.
“And not only is it going to take place here—the kids are carrying it home,” she continued. “We have family involvement and family engagement, so science is going to happen throughout their day.”
In addition to a detailed lesson plan that is easily followed by busy preschool teachers, Everyday Science provides video reinforcement, so that teachers can show kids what they’re about to experience. It also uses original animation and visual images to introduce these basic concepts in science.
“We are teaching a technology generation now. While they’re with us, we can use that as another way to grab them and motivate them,” Hughey said.
Even when the topic is something intimidating like physics, Everyday Science is there with fun, engaging lessons on pulleys and simple machines, which kids learn while they discover the best way to get toys to the top of the tree house.
“If we can give them that excitement about seeing science around them, it will stay with them when they’re sitting in that classroom in ninth grade and have a ‘stand and deliver’ teacher,” said Hughey, a 30-year classroom veteran.
“But if you start with a child who loves science, you’re more likely to have a child who will get it. These are our future scientists. These are the children, the explorers, the generation that is going to find the cures that our generation hasn’t been able to.”
Hughey’s favorite Everyday Science lesson—when the kids are outside with those funky paper binoculars—always gives her a vision of the future.
“As I look at the explorer hats and the binoculars, I think, if we can hook them now, they are going to be the ones that stick with it and find those cures.”
KET’s Everyday Science was made possible in part by grants from Kentucky Power and PNC Bank.