Scientific discovery starts early with little scientists

Scientific discovery starts early with little scientists

From the first science concept introduced in kindergarten, Gwinnett students are building their scientific knowledge with hands-on, brains-on experiences in a coherent K-12 program. “With the early exposure our students get to science vocabulary and the scientific process, the children are better prepared for the more complex science they’ll encounter in middle and high school,” says Mary Elizabeth Davis, GCPS science director.

And that early exposure starts Day One for the little scientists in Divette Beck’s kindergarten class at Walnut Grove Elementary. Ms. Beck sets the tone for serious science in her classroom. When students look like a scientist, talk like a scientist, and act like a scientist, well, they’re scientists.

The children earn honorary doctoral degrees in research and development from MBU (Mrs. Beck University). And those laminated certificates are proudly displayed on the classroom walls. Their degree-granting teacher says the children refer to each other as “Dr.” when they’re working together in the classroom lab. Wearing white lab coats, the children routinely use the tools, methods, and vocabulary of a scientist.

“The level and quality of work they turn out is amazing,” she says of her students. “They take this all very, very seriously. I truly believe this serious, hands-on approach excites them about school in general and science in particular.”

Like many disciplines, science has its own “language.” Science vocabulary words cover the classroom walls and are sprinkled throughout lessons. Mrs. Beck notes that her students are comfortable with what they call million-dollar words— words like igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic— and the children use them in their lab reports and written work.

Just like their adult counterparts in the lab, the students use scientific principles as they engage in pint-sized research. “I never tell the students what will happen in an experiment,” says Mrs. Beck. “We make predictions and we find out for ourselves. I teach them to question and know that it sometimes is different than what we thought and to be wrong is okay.”

One recent morning, a group of white-smocked children gathered around a lab table. Sporting magnifying glasses, two children sifted through soil samples and recorded their observations on data collection sheets… living and nonliving organisms in separate columns. The big find of the morning was pink and wiggly… an earthworm.

Mrs. Beck observes that kindergarten students arrive in school full of a natural curiosity and excitement for every new discovery. By their very natures, 5-year-olds… with all their questions and wide-eyed wonder… make great little scientists. Firmly grounded in scientific principles and steeped in the language of science, our youngest students have the foundation they’ll need as they continue their scientific journey throughout their school careers.