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Young children learn math, science, and social studies concepts as they explore the world around them. Early childhood teachers and families can design the environment and activities to give children opportunities to construct knowledge in these areas. Through technology all children can gain access to their environment and learn critical developmental skills. New advances in technology, such as the computerized microscope and the latest digital technology, make children's discoveries come alive. Graphing software helps children organize, categorize, and understand information they have collected.
Although the three curricular areas are interrelated, a close look at the standards for each serves as an overview of the content which children should be learning at the preschool level.
The National Committee for Teaching Mathematics (NCTM, 2000) defines appropriate math experiences as those that challenge young children to explore ideas related to patterns, shapes, numbers, and space with increasing sophistication.
Everyday activities can be the basis for learning mathematical concepts:
By providing an appropriate environment with plenty of opportunities to explore materials and participate in problem solving experiences, teachers and families can support children's math concept development. Many early childhood books are based on number concepts or contain patterns. Movement activities to accompany music help children understand directions of up, down, in, and out, which develops spatial awareness.
The main areas in the NCTM's Learning Standards for Math include:
One example of state learning standards which includes specific benchmarks for preschool age children is the Illinois Early Learning Standards developed by the Illinois State Board of Education in 2000. The Illinois Early Learning Standards are consistent with NAEYC developmental standards and current research in early education and development. These Early Learning Standards are organized by interrelated goals which apply to the areas of Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Science, Physical Development and Health, Fine Arts, Foreign Language, and Social/Emotional Development:
Applications of Learning
Working on Teams
According to the Illinois Early Learning Standards, mathematics is a language we use to identify, describe and investigate the patterns and challenges of everyday living. It helps us to understand the events that have occurred and to predict and prepare for events to come so that we can more fully understand our world and more successfully live in it.
In April 2002, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) issued a position statement on Early Childhood Mathemematics: Promoting Good Beginnings. Recommendations are made for teachers and key personnel as well as institutions, program developers and policymakers.
Young children discover knowledge through experimentation and interactions in their social and physical environment. Since play is the young child's vehicle for learning in early childhood classrooms, children acquire scientific knowledge by construction rather than instruction. As they explore their world, children engage in the processes of science. Through a nurturing environment teachers and families can provide opportunities for children to explore and express their discoveries in a variety of ways. Science goals in early childhood are based on national and state learning standards.
National Science Education Standards
The National Science Education Standards released by the National Research Council in December, 1995, consist of two main areas, Science Teaching Standards and Science Content Standards. The Council recommends in the Teaching Standards that preschool classrooms provide an environment that is child-centered and encourages active inquiry. Lessons should be planned which focus on childrens natural interests and motivations. Children should be encouraged to work in groups to identify and solve problems. Equipment and materials should be available to allow children to interact with nature outside in their communities, neighborhoods, and backyards. The teachers role is that of facilitator, observing children as they actively study science.
The National Research Council organized Science Content Standards into 8 areas:
Developmentally appropriate topics are listed for each content area. Through these science standards teachers are encouraged to provide an environment and activities which promote inquiry and assist children in constructing meaning about themselves and the world around them.
Illinois Early Learning Standards
According to the Illinois Learning Standards science education should help young learners develop a rich and full understanding of the inquiry process along with the key concepts and principles of life sciences, physical science, and earth and space sciences; and issues of science, technology, and society in historical and contemporary contexts. Link to Illinois Learning Standards
Young children are affected in all aspects of their lives by the social world around them. As an integral part of the early childhood curriculum, social studies defines how a child learns to become an active contributor to society. Teaching strategies should be based on use of concrete experiences and opportunities to discuss observations. Goals should reflect children's personal, social, and cultural experiences.
The main goal of the early childhood social studies curriculum is to help children develop a positive self concept. Children need to understand that although they have some of the same feelings as other children, they are unique individuals who can contribute to society. Children need to develop a sense of time, understanding the past as it relates to the present. Development of spatial relationships is needed for children to understand the relation of their community to the world.
The National Council for Social Studies established the following themes that form the framework for social studies standards.
National Council for Social Studies defines skills young children need to develop in the social studies curriculum.
Resources for Families and Educators