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    Learning in Places: Preschool Outdoor Science
    Posted on 04/20/2021
    Two students work together to complete a science worksheet while standing outside

    Learning in Places: Preschool Outdoor Science

    SPS is currently piloting a Learning in Places science program with preschool students across the district. This program provides preschool students and their families with outdoor learning experiences that focus on family connections and establish a strong foundation for science practices and curiosity.

    The outdoors can be a powerful learning space to teach science stories to young students and spark their curiosity in the scientific world around us. It has also been a great way to engage students and their families during this time of remote learning. Thanks to the success of this initial pilot program, we hope to expand the program to more preschool classrooms next school year.

    A young child looks through binoculars outside Learning in Places is funded by a National Science Foundation grant, and the program is co-designed by our preschool educators, with invaluable input from our preschool families. We are also working in partnership with the University of Washington to help create equitable, culturally relevant, inquiry-based science learning using outdoor spaces in preschool.

    Educators are always working to best understand how we engage students with questions and how we get our youngest students to share their discoveries. Through the Learning in Places curriculum, students are asked to go on wondering walks using their Learning in Places item bags.

    These bags contain all sorts of materials that students can use to discover the world around them — binoculars, journals, magnifying glasses, scavenger hunt boards, measuring tape, and more. As students explore the outdoors with their families, they put on their backpacks and record what they see, whether it's using their iPads, a parent's phone, or by writing or drawing. The specific intent of these wondering walks is to blossom their scientific curiosity and teach students how to ask questions about their surroundings.

    After their wondering walks, students come together via Microsoft Teams to share what they noticed and learned on their walks during their story sharing time — they can either show pictures that they took, show the items they found on camera, or verbally discuss what they experienced on their walks. They talk about the tools they used from their bags and discuss their observations of the weather, the plants the discovered, the animals they spotted, the insects they saw crawling around, or anything that they were curious about during their walk. They ask each other questions and learn about each other's experiences. Educators also use Seesaw, our learning management system, to display pictures from students for everyone to see.

    A young student stands in a parking lot with a backpack The big ideas of this program are simple:

    1. SPS wants students to have scientific experiences in preschool so that they enter elementary school with an appreciation for the wonder of science, while honoring students' perspectives, cultures, and ideas.
    2. SPS wants to better partner with families in an engaging and authentic way to promote and foster their student's rightful presence in the enterprise of science.

    Thank you to our preschool educators who have helped co-design and make this pilot program so special. We also want to express our appreciation for the National Science Foundation grant that made this program possible for our youngest students and their families.

    Learn more about Science in Seattle Public Schools.