Science as a Way of Thinking
Infants and toddlers are natural scientists—we hear that a lot, but what does it really mean?
Most every experience—whether during play or through daily routines—involves some element of exploration and testing. Think of how young children make observations, either consciously or unconsciously, as they discover: The pea goes flat if I smush it with my finger. They form a hypothesis and conduct tests: Do the steamed carrots go flat if I press down on them? How about the bread? What does yogurt do if I push down hard on it? They analyze the findings, learn from their tests, and apply that knowledge to new situations—new foods, play dough, sand, water, mudpies, and more.
What is science? Science is both a body of knowledge that represents our current understanding of natural systems and the process by which that body of knowledge has been established (Duschl, Schweingruber, & Shouse, 2007, p. 26). For infants and toddlers, science is all about exploration and discovery—which we call scientific inquiry, best thought of as a “way of thinking and acting” (Worth, 2010).