There are some things that all children seem to be interested in: cars, trees, dinosaurs, bugs, and space. Not all children are interested in these things, of course, but our experience is that most are, at one time or another.
The role of an Early Childhood Educator is to notice when children are interested in specific topics and then build learning opportunities around that interest. For many of the above topics, those opportunities are easier to create: we can build racetracks around the classroom, go on nature walks, or draw pictures of dinosaurs.
Space, though, is a bit more challenging. At Today’s Family, we love experiential learning: relating learning topics back to things that children can see and interact with in their everyday lives. Space seems like it should be easy to teach about since it’s in the sky every night, but unfortunately the prime time to learn about stars and planets is after our children’s bedtimes, and definitely after centre hours.
Some of our enterprising ECEs weren’t going to let the time of day stop them from delivering a lesson, though. They gathered the interested children up and had them watch a short video about stars on the centre iPad. The ECEs made a point to draw attention to the stars in the background of the video. After watching the video, they asked some questions to make sure that the children were retaining the information. “What colour were the stars?” they asked. The children replied that stars were yellow, like our sun, but they looked white at night because they were so far away.
“Let’s make our own starry night!” said the ECEs. They brought out some paper, letting the children choose the black paper after explaining what they were doing. Then, they took glue and made dots and patterns on the paper. Finally, they sprinkled silver sparkles onto the paper, making their own stars and constellations.
Not only were the children learning about space, they were learning about how to, well, learn. Reinforcing information with questions and an activity is a pattern that these toddlers will soon experience in preschool and kindergarten and getting them familiar with it earlier on will help ease what can be a difficult transition from our centres to school.