Serrano, a preschool teacher of 2- to 4-year-olds, took her class on a field trip to a nearby conservation park. Yao, a 4-year-old, excitedly ran up to Serrano, showing her a bug she found on a tree. A number of other children came up to see what the excitement was all about. Yao had many questions about the bug, as did the other children. They wanted to know what kind of bug it was, where its mommy and daddy were, what it ate, did it sleep, how big would it grow, and more. Then Stephen joined the group, holding up a multicolored rock he found in a creek. The children wanted to know if it was gold, if it was worth any money, and where it came from.
At first Serrano thought the children did not know much about bugs or rocks. She thought she had a considerable amount to teach them about science. However, she quickly realized they already knew a lot about both. Their questions suggested they understood that as a living thing, bugs had many of the same characteristics of other living things, such as needing food and rest, whereas rocks did not share those same properties. The children needed specific details to fill in the gaps of their knowledge.
Serrano took this opportunity to teach her students more about biology. She held up the bug and asked, “Who knows what kind of bug this is?” The children shouted out their answers. When she asked about the rock, a boy named Joshua wanted to know how big it would grow. Serrano then recognized that although children had a correct understanding of some concepts, they had a number of misconceptions as well. There were many challenges ahead, and she could not wait to get started.