An emphasis on “inquiry science” has long been advocated by the National Research Council, whose national science education standards stress science as inquiry and grasp of a few fundamental concepts, ahead of the more traditional focus on a wide smattering of content knowledge (see tinyurl.com/inquirysci). The approach does, however, depend on the instructors understanding how to carry out inquiry-based lessons effectively. The teachers need training in how to teach science. It is not enough to give them courses to bolster their science content knowledge—or to fast-track science graduates into teaching with insufficient schooling in the science of how children learn.
Children are natural scientists: not only are they inquisitive and energetic, but they have an instinct for controlled experimentation. The goal of science education at the earliest levels should be to encourage and refine children’s innate love of exploring the world around them and to help that enthusiastic behavior grow into true scientific literacy.
This article was originally published with the title Start Science Sooner.