Living in a biotech town like San Diego, I have many students with at least one family member who is a scientist. They often sign up for my class so they can be just like "mom/dad/aunt/uncle/grandpa/grandma"! Most of my students range between 3 and 5 years old so their brains aren't quite ready to understand organic chemistry or neuroscience, but they can learn the scientific process without even realizing they are doing it. Science is a process of making observations, predictions, and testing hypotheses. Preschoolers should be engaged in active learning, not memorization. Children are naturally gifted at finding the smallest details and making the biggest predictions! "The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) affirms that learning science and engineering practices in the early years can foster children’s curiosity and enjoyment in exploring the world around them and lay the foundation for a progression of science learning in K–12 settings and throughout their entire lives." (www.nsta.org) Children are tactile learners who dive straight into each experiment with energy and a quest to learn. The hands-on approach gives them the experiential learning that they crave. They do not want to merely watch me do something, they want to discover it for themselves!
The primary goal of The Little Science Lab is to help my "junior scientists" find science in the world around them so that they recognize it in their every day lives by learning about one topic each week. We cover everything from how a slinky works to the human body to outer space. This class was developed with the interests of my own boys in mind. Every time they would come home asking a question, it would inspire a new set of experiments for us. Simple questions, like the time my son asked, "Mom, how does a straw work?" now is a whole lesson worth of experiments about air pressure.
"The science of today, is the technology of tomorrow." Edward Teller