Southwest Educational Development Laboratory

Classroom Compass
Volume 2 Number 3
Summer 1996


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 assembly.

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.
Classroom Compass Back Issues: Issue 2.3 Contents: Previous : Next
Search Contact
Copyright ©2001 Southwest Educational Development Laboratory     Terms of Use     Top of page