Beth R. Davis, EdS, Gryphon House author and early childhood educator, offers answers to your questions about her passion for math and science in early education.
Someone wants to become an early childhood educator. What do you tell them?
Young children are blank canvases filled with possibilities. Each day is an opportunity to mold and develop young minds. Keep in mind that every child has unique gifts and talents. As an early childhood educator, it is your role to find and nurture those gifts and talents in each and every child. Remember, no two children are alike, and you should interact with each one as an individual.
What fascinates you about early childhood development?
It is fascinating to me to see that children are developing a curiosity for learning at a younger and younger age. I am fascinated that what seems like an abstract concept, when introduced over time, young children grasp bits and pieces and ultimately will gain an understanding of the concepts.
What’s your favorite science activity to do with children?
My favorite activity is the recycled rockets.The sense of excitement as each child launches their own rocket is simply contagious.
What’s your favorite age group to work with?
My favorite age to work with are the 4- and 5-year -olds.
What is one thing we don’t know about you, but should?
Charity work is very near and dear to my heart and inspiring kids to make a difference through acts of kindness. I have a charity, Kids 4 Kids (www.kids4kids.org) that has worked with youth volunteers of all ages to fill and deliver over 75,000 backpacks for poor children among other projects.
You write about preschool science and math. How and why did you begin and continue to do that?
I was originally an elementary science lab teacher. After 17 years teaching hands-on science to kids in grades 2-5, I had a chance to open my own preschool. After seeing the sense of awe and amazement in the older children, I knew that it would be just as exciting with younger children. I am shocked and amazed by how much the preschoolers retain and by the joy they get when they make a new discovery. They see science as magic and I love watching these little science magicians explore the world around them with a sense of wonder and amazement. I also love facilitating teachers to make science enjoyable for their students. When you see the light bulb go off, you will never be the same.
What fascinates you about early childhood science related development?
I am fascinated to see that STEM is bringing science to the forefront of early childhood education. I love that, by just teaching good science to young children, we can create lifelong learners and critical thinkers.
So you mentioned doing research. What did you learn or how were you changed by that experience?
In my research, I doubled the amount of hands-on science instruction to the lowest performing, at-risk kids at my elementary school. Their gains in science content knowledge proved that exposing children to high-quality, hands-on instructions is far more effective than teaching science content knowledge in a book or by using worksheets. I was shocked that these low-performing, at-risk kids actually synthesized greater science content knowledge than their above-average and gifted classmates. Just goes to show that you learn by doing.
Find more activities based on Beth Davis' experiences and research in her new book, Hands-On Science and Math.