Science and Technology
Developing Student Abilities and
Understanding Grades K-4
In grades K - 4, children should have a variety of educational experiences
that involve science and technology, sometimes in the same activity and
other times separately. When the activities are informal and open, such
as building a balance and comparing the weight of objects on it, it is
difficult to separate inquiry from technological design. At other times,
the distinction might be clear to adults but not to children.
Children's abilities in technological problem solving can be developed
by firsthand experience in tackling technological tasks. They also can
study technological products and systems in their world. Children can
engage in projects that are appropriately challenging for their
developmental level. They can study existing products to determine
function and try to identify problems solved, materials used, and how
well a product does what it is supposed to do. An old technological
device, such as an apple peeler, can be used as a mystery object for
students to investigate and figure out what it does, how it helps
people, and what problems it might solve and cause. Such activities
provide excellent opportunities to direct attention to specific
technology - the tools and instruments used in science.
Suitable tasks for children at this age should have clearly defined
purposes and be related with other content standards. Tasks should be
conducted within immediately familiar contexts of the home and school.
They should be straightforward; there should be only one or two
well-defined ways to solve the problem, and there should be a single,
well-defined criterion for success. Any construction of objects should
require developmentally appropriate manipulative skills used in
elementary school and should not require time-consuming preparations and
Over the course of grades K - 4, student investigations and design
problems should incorporate more than one material and several contexts
in science and technology.
Experiences should be complemented by study of familiar and simple
objects through which students can develop observation and analysis
skills. By comparing one or two obvious properties, such as cost and
strength of two types of adhesive tape, for example, students can
develop the abilities to judge a product's cost against its ability to
solve a problem. During the K - 4 years, an appropriate balance of
products could come from the categories of clothing, food, and common
domestic and school hardware.
The above excerpts are reprinted with permission from the National
Science Education Standards. Copyright 1996 by the National Academy of
Sciences. Courtesy of the National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.
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