I am concluding our school year using the Peep Explorer’s Guide as our science curriculum. The first thing you need to know is that the Guide is user friendly. A brand new teacher right out of college or a seasoned preschool teacher without prior science expertise will both be successful with this curriculum. Teachers who are already strong in planning science for young children will love the format. It seems they thought of everything! There are six fun units complete with activities as well as classroom close-ups, sidebar photos and illustrations, simple materials lists, suggested safety rules, and reflective questions. There is also plenty of room for teacher’s flexibility as the units can be used in any order. The activities, too, can be modified as needed. The amount of time spent on each unit can be individualized according to the student’s interest. It is a guide. There is no mandate to do every activity or work in a specific order.
Fully embedded into the inquiry cycle, they learned to observe, describe, ask, explain, experiment, express ideas verbally and through representational drawings and demonstrations.
They learned to adjust their ideas, form theories, test theories, solve problems, design a test, practice data collection, find answers to their own questions, and communicate their ideas to others and reflect. In other words they became scientists.
They also learned science content! They learned that shadows happen when light is blocked; water flows down; some objects float and some sink; plants grow better with soil, water and light; adding white to a color changes its shade. They learned that vibration is needed to make a sound, some objects roll and others slide, and smooth balls roll best.
They also increased their science language ability. They added words such as shadow, reflection, sink, float, suspended, flow, seedling, prediction, and many others to their vocabulary.
What did I learn this year?
One skill that I improved this year was the ability to wait. I tried to let the children have the experience of the discovery. Sometimes teachers get caught up in the excitement of the students’ learning. They want to explain it all. But being told about something does not compare to having it happen to you. Children learn more profoundly when they experience a concept for themselves.
The same is true for ideas. This year I learned to let them lead the way. If it comes from them, naturally it will hold their interest more. My students didn’t choose the topics for our units, but they certainly guided the direction that our exploration took. They did this by answering our “What do you want to know?” questions at the beginning of each topic. They also showed me their interests and through observation I was able to interpret their ideas.
One of the biggest changes for me this year was the use of the Peep videos. Previously I had protested the use of media, preferring hands-on learning only. However, I found the Peep videos were so well produced that they fit effectively into the units. Sometimes the videos were a pre-explore viewing and sometimes a post-explore, but always they added to our discussions and led to more exploration. For example, the video Making Things Sink and Float was used after our own exploration. It led to discussion about how the video children’s exploration was similar and different than our own. Watching the video Tracking Down Sounds got the children very enthusiastic about trying the sound-making activity on our playground fence. And Peep Plants a Seed was a favorite, helping students understand the length of time it would take for their seeds to grow.
The Peep Explorer’s Guide actually helped me become more comfortable teaching science because just about everything I needed to know as far as subject matter is in there. For example, in the Exploring Sound unit, simple definitions of sound, pitch, timbre, and volume are given. I appreciated that; it was helpful when it was time for me to explain these concepts in simple language for the children.
With Peep by my side, I was always ready to go, because with every unit the materials list was there for me. I also followed the Guide’s recommendation to do teacher-exploration prep ahead of time. (Yes, I really did play with shadows at home!)
Finally, the Guide helped me go deeper into topics, something that is easy to neglect. Teachers often want to include so many topics in their science curriculum that they end up glossing over the content. The science becomes superficial. This year using the Guide, we went with fewer topics but gained a much deeper understanding of each of them. The learning was richer and more meaningful due to the amount of time we spent on each topic and the variety of ways it was explored. We really experienced it!