Project with Children's Center brings science, math to preschoolers

Sixteen childhood education majors at SUNY Oswego worked with Dr. Audrey Rule, a professor of curriculum and instruction, on a special project with the Oswego Children’s Center in Swetman Hall on campus that introduced preschoolers to science and math concepts.

Working in three groups—one each on insects, marine life and geoscience (minerals, rocks and dinosaurs)—the students made sets of teaching materials for preschoolers that integrated science content, early mathematics skills and fine motor skills, Rule said.

For example, Rule said, SUNY Oswego student David Danisa painted each of six cardboard egg carton cups to match the colors and textures of different small rocks. The preschooler then used a spoon to place each rock in its matching compartment, thereby practicing fine motor skills in manipulating the rock with a spoon, learning science content that geologists classify many rocks by color and texture, and practicing the foundational math skill of matching color and texture, she explained.

Other student projects called for transfer of small items using tongs, tweezers or clip-type clothespins, she said.

Another set, made by student Lesley Chase, contained two boards, each with four plastic sea animals (sharks, seals, whales) securely attached. The child used a small fishnet to capture an identical sea animal and place it in a square next to its duplicate.

“All of the activities practiced skills that real scientists use, such as entomologists sorting insects according to characteristics, geologists counting grains . . . or marine scientists placing one fish in each tank for observation,” Rule said.

Students visited the preschool in small groups and helped the young children use their materials, gaining valuable feedback in how children responded to their work. They had received permission for the project from the Children’s Center board and the children’s parents. The preschoolers were able to use the materials for about a month after the visit.

The students collaborated with Rule on three articles about the project. All three are expected to be published in the next year, Rule said. The articles are:

- “Preschoolers Dive in for Authentic Learning of Marine Science” by Allison Chetney, Lindsey Faulkner, Bridget Smithers, Stephanie Rubas, Sara Schwartz, Chase and Rule, to appear in the Journal of Authentic Learning

- “Geoscience for Preschoolers” by Jason Gentile, Kate McNamara, Monica Pinney, Sarah Ross, Danisa and Rule, to appear in the journal Science and Children

- “‘Bee’ an Entomologist” by D. J. Barnhardt, Heather Howard, Valerie Kahn, Tara Kempf, Jessica Leo and Rule, acceptance for publication pending

Rule also put together a bulletin board on the lower level of Swetman Hall and a display on the second floor of Penfield Library to chronicle the project. 

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(Posted: Mar 09, 2005)