The domain of Science includes Preschool Benchmarks in: Demonstrating Curiosity about the World and Beginning to Use the Practices of Science and Engineering, Exploring Life, Physical and Earth Sciences, and Connecting and Understanding Science and Engineering

Preschool children have an innate drive to explore and make sense of the world around them. Teachers can set the stage for children to become curious and confident young scientists by sharing in their interest and excitement and providing opportunities for them to engage in the practices of science.

Teachers help children develop the dispositions of a scientist through active engagement in the practices of science. These dispositions include curiosity, persistence, motivation to answer questions and solve problems, and interest in real discovery. As preschool teachers work with children to help them answer questions such as what makes a shadow, they are involving them in the use of science practices. When they support them in the work of solving a problem such as how to connect a wagon to a tricycle so one friend can pull another, they are helping them learn about practices of engineering design. The science standards integrate science and engineering practices, along with technology and mathematics, to help children learn more about their world.

Children who participate in active investigations to learn about their environment and experiences are engaging in the real work of scientists. They are asking questions, investigating, and trying out their ideas to find answers. They begin to construct new ways of thinking by talking about their experiences with other children and interested adults. Just as adult scientists do, preschool children can make careful observations, collect and record data, and share their findings with others. For example, they may create a simple chart to keep track of which objects roll down a ramp and which objects slide.

Preschoolers engage in engineering design when they solve the problem of a ramp that keeps falling down by building it differently. They may use the science practice of modeling as they work with a friend to create drawings of their ideas for making a big ramp outside. With an interested adult, they may reflect on their experiences and think of new possibilities to try. This process of actively exploring and investigating, communicating and thinking about what they have discovered, and trying additional ideas lays the foundation for a solid, experiential understanding of important core ideas of science and the practices of science and engineering. In addition, children use skills such as observation and problem solving—integrated with ideas from art, mathematics, and language development—to deepen their understanding of science.

When teachers provide opportunities for children to sit quietly and watch the movements of a snail or to assess the weather and decide if a jacket is needed, they are helping children develop curiosity, the skills of observation, and other practices of science. When teachers encourage a group of children to keep trying as they attempt to move a big log to a shadier spot, they are helping children develop persistence as well as skills in problem solving and cooperation—the practices of engineering. When caring adults respond thoughtfully to children’s questions and encourage them to investigate possible answers or solve problems, they are helping them develop initiative and creativity—the dispositions of scientists and engineers. When teachers challenge children with open-ended science investigations, they allow children across the range of developmental levels typically present in preschool classrooms to share in the excitement of learning. Most importantly, when adults support children in active scientific inquiry, everyone shares in the wonder and delight of discovery.

In Drew’s integrated preschool special education classroom, he makes sure that all of the children are challenged at just the right level for their capabilities. He has found that science explorations are a wonderful way for him to individualize experiences so that each child gains from the investigation. He can incorporate the IEP goals for his students with special needs and, at the same time, meet the needs of the peer models in his class. Recently, the children in Drew’s class noticed changes in the mulch on the playground after heavy rains for several days. They saw shallow trenches that had been created by the flow of water. Drew talked with them about the rain and the power of water and suggested they do some water explorations themselves. They were all interested! In the classroom, he set up his sensory table with mulch and dirt and encouraged children to explore what happened when they poured water from different containers onto the mulch. Over several days, they experimented with small and large cups, watering cans, and large pitchers—with every child pouring water and watching the reaction. Children with more language capabilities described what they saw while others used a word here or there or pointed and gestured. Jason, a child with special needs, repeatedly said “Water” as he poured from the different containers. Susannah, his constant friend, said, “You’re pouring the water, huh, Jason? See, it’s making a puddle in the dirt.” Jason reached into the puddle and splashed with his fingertips. Drew said, “It’s wet, isn’t it, Jason? And, look. Now your fingertips are brown.” Jason studied his fingers and grinned, then went to the sink and washed his hands. Throughout the investigation, Drew took photos of the children at the sensory table and charted the results of the experiments with them. They noted that the large pitcher had created the most changes in the mulch and dirt and drew pictures of the results, some with scribbles and some with more representation. Drew created a display with the photos and drawings to show families about the investigation.


Goal 11
Demonstrate curiosity about the world and begin to use the practices of science and engineering to answer questions and solve problems.

Learning Standard 11.A
Develop beginning skills in the use of science and engineering practices, such as observing, asking questions, solving problems, and drawing conclusions.

Example Performance Descriptors

Show curiosity and interest in the world around them and ask why questions (e.g., “Why is the sidewalk shiny from the rain?” “How come it smells so good in here?” when muffins are baking). Participate in a discussion about why things happen (e.g., describe why some objects roll and others do not). Pose what, why, and how questions about the world around them (e.g., ask why some objects move when placed near a magnet, what made the hole in the acorn, or where do ants live).
Represent through actions or materials the physical characteristics of a natural object (e.g., crawl like a worm, mix colors of paint to show the colors of leaves changing on a tree, make an acorn out of clay). Draw the physical characteristics of something observed (e.g., record the growth of a sprouting seed through drawings). Draw the physical characteristics of something observed and describe the characteristics with words (e.g., record the growth of a sprouting seed through drawings and describe the changes observed).
Use the senses to investigate and make comparisons (e.g., compare textures of objects using the sense of touch). Investigate simple cause and effect or other scientific principles such as magnetism and gravity through play activities (e.g., observe that a toy car rolls slower when a ramp is lowered or that block towers consistently fall downward). With teacher assistance, conduct an investigation, predicting and testing results (e.g., mixing colors into cup of water, predicting changes with each new color added, then testing results).
Use materials to design solutions to problems (e.g., after trial and error, realize which blocks work best to create a stable bridge for toy cars to roll across). Use simple charts to collect data (e.g., test a collection of objects to see which bounce and record the results). Use simple graphs to collect data (e.g., organize all of the autumn leaves collected outdoors into a color graph).

Goal 12
Explore concepts and information about the physical, earth, and life sciences.

Learning Standard 12.A
Understand that living things grow and change.

Example Performance Descriptors

Identify and describe the different structures of familiar mammals (e.g., explain that dogs and cats have eyes and ears). Identify and describe the different structures of familiar plants and a greater range of animals (e.g., explain that plants have leaves, stems, and roots and that fish have fins and gills). Identify things as living or nonliving based on characteristics such as breathing, movement, and growth.
Observe similarities and differences when viewing pictures of self, beginning in infancy. Observe living things to see how they change over time (e.g., compare a variety of plants to observe how quickly they grow and change over time). Understand that living things grow and change. Can use drawings or other forms of representation to describe changes familiar to them (e.g., record changes in a nearby tree through the seasons).
Learning Standard 12.B
Understand that living things rely on the environment and/or others to live and grow.

Example Performance Descriptors

Compare human basic needs to those of other living things. Compare what different animals need to live and grow. Observe, describe, and compare the habitats of various plants and animals.
Show awareness of the need to care for living things (e.g., water plants, feed pets, put food out for birds). Take responsibility for caring for living things (e.g., water plants, feed pets, put food out for birds). Describe and compare how changes in the seasons and weather affect plants and animals.
Learning Standard 12.C
Explore the physical properties of objects.

Example Performance Descriptors

Match objects according to physical properties, such as color, texture, or shape. Sort objects according to physical properties, such as color, texture, or shape. Explore and describe the properties of different objects using the senses of touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing.
Explore and discuss simple chemical reactions with teacher assistance (e.g., mix substances such as baking soda and water and describe what happens). Explore changes in matter with teacher assistance (e.g., make gelatin to show that matter changes from a liquid to a solid or melt ice to show how solids change to a liquid). Recognize that some changes in matter are reversible and some are not (e.g., water can be changed to ice and become water again; flour used to make play dough cannot be returned to its original state).
Learning Standard 12.D
Explore concepts of force and motion.

Example Performance Descriptors

Describe and compare the effects of common forces, such as pushing and pulling. Explore the effects of simple forces in nature, such as wind, gravity, and magnetism. Describe the effects of simple forces in nature, such as wind, gravity, and magnetism.
Explore and describe the motion of toys and objects (e.g., compare how cars roll on ramps when placed at different angles). Recognize and describe the effect of actions on objects (e.g., explain what happens if one blows on a pinwheel or kicks a ball). Explore the impact of their own use of force and motion on objects (e.g., can control the distance a ball travels by using a gentle or hard kick).
Learning Standard 12.E
Explore concepts and information related to the Earth, including ways to take care of our planet.

Example Performance Descriptors

Investigate and identify physical properties and characteristics of water as a solid and liquid. Explore and compare the size, shape, weight, and texture of minerals and rocks (e.g., sort rocks by rough/smooth or small/large). Investigate and discuss similarities and differences in samples of soil, such as a clay, sand, potting soil, and dirt from the playground (e.g., sift or add water to sand and compare).
Show some awareness of reusing and recycling materials. Participate in reusing and recycling materials. Identify ways to protect the environment (e.g., participate in discussions about conservation strategies such as turning off lights, turning off water faucets, and not littering).
Learning Standard 12.F
Explore changes related to the weather and seasons.

Example Performance Descriptors

Describe changes in weather. Participate in discussions about the differences in the seasons. Discuss which seasons are more appropriate for certain activities (e.g., explain that leaves are raked in the fall, that sledding takes place in winter).
Describe and create representations of clouds. Explore the effects of the sun on objects (e.g., feel the difference in temperature in objects placed in sunlight and shade). Participate in activities that require one to understand differences between the seasons (e.g., match appropriate clothes to the right season).

Goal 13
Understand important connections and understandings in science and engineering.

Learning Standard 13.A
Understand rules to follow when investigating and exploring.

Example Performance Descriptors

Participate in discussion about safety when using the senses to explore things (e.g., talk with peers about not building blocks over their shoulders because they could fall and hit their heads). Participate in discussions about safety before acting when using the senses to explore things (e.g., understand the need be cautious when touching things that may be hot, such as light bulbs, and not to lick or taste unknown substances). Ask teacher about safety before acting when using the senses to explore things (e.g., “Is it okay if I touch this, teacher?” “I need safety goggles for the workbench, huh, teacher?”).
Learning Standard 13.B
Use tools and technology to assist with science and engineering investigations.

Example Performance Descriptors

Try out one or two tools to explore the world (e.g., look at classroom through a prism, study natural items under a magnifying glass). Use a variety of tools, such as magnifiers, balance scales, and thermometers, to explore the world and learn how things work. Use standard and nonstandard tools and technology in pretend play (e.g., ruler, scale, or yarn to measure, rocks to compare weight, cardboard tube to amplify a voice).
Observe teacher using technology to aid in investigation, exploration, and scientific inquiry. Make suggestion to use technology to aid in investigation, exploration, and scientific inquiry. Use technology, such as a computer or camera, to aid in investigation, exploration, and scientific inquiry.


The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Illinois Learning Standards for Science (K-12) were consulted in revising the IELDS Science standards.