Children are born scientists – they are innately curious about the physical environment and naturally open to making meaning through their exploration and conversations with others. Science teaching and learning has a place in all early learning services.
Science teaching and learning is about introducing children to the ways scientists think about and investigate the physical environment. Scientists do this in two ways.
Science has traditionally been separated into five disciplines:
Each discipline has specific ways of exploring and investigating the physical environment.
Alongside this “western” framework of science sits a Te Ao Māori world view. An example of a difference between the two is that from a Te Ao Māori perspective, water and planet earth (papatūānuku) are living entities, while for western science they are objects and substance with no life force.
In Aotearoa New Zealand, there is a growing interest, appreciation, and integration of mātauranga Māori (traditional knowledge) in our understanding of the world. A rich curriculum for science is one that acknowledges, respects, and draws on the similarities and differences between both world views.
An effective science curriculum foregrounds the learning of skills, knowledge, and dispositions that enable all children to think and investigate scientifically.
For kaiako who remember their own experience of science at school as primarily activities and experiments, this may require a shift in approach. While resources and activities have a role to play, it is the quality of kaiako interest, interactions, and responses that grows young scientific minds most effectively.
Early learning services that encourage scientific learning have three characteristics.
More specifically, children learn science related thinking and knowledge through:
Kia heke iho rā i ngā tūpuna, kātahi ka tika
This whakataukī, taken from Te Whāriki, refers to intergenerational expertise and the respect Māori have for the wise counsel of the ancestors. It is a reminder to consider the ways science teaching and learning is enriched through the integration of traditional Māori knowledge and values.
Examples can include the following:
Kaiako who are effective in promoting science learning through play:
Te Papa has a range of hands-on educational experiences, led by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic education team. There are a range of curriculum-linked learning programmes, which can be tailored for education environments. You can contact the Education team at Te Papa to find out more about how they can help support your programme.
Te Papa Tongarewa, in conjunction with three early childhood centres, has developed a comprehensive guide on scientific literacy, providing examples of practice, teaching strategies, and resources that align to the Ministry of Education’s five science capabilities. It explains: “Scientific literacy is essential in today’s society. By enabling young children to investigate the living world, you’ll help them build confidence, broaden their interests, develop scientific thinking skills, and build knowledge” (It’s a Bug’s Life, Te Papa, 2016).
This resource includes commentary and a number of exemplars that illustrate a scientific lens on practice.
This is a useful foundation for considering and discussing a Te Ao Māori worldview in relation to science in early learning services. It also contains examples of practice, some of which link well to promoting scientific thinking and learning.
This is a video of a panel discussion that took place at Te Papa in conjunction with The Royal Society Te Apārangi. The panelists are three distinguished Māori scientists discussing their experience of drawing on mātauranga Māori and mainstream science.