Portrait of early science education in majority dual language learner classrooms: Where do we start?
Keywords:Early science education, Dual language learners, Head Start, Preschool
Despite the growing interest in early science education, there is much left to be explored, particularly in majority Dual Language Learning (DLL) classrooms. The current study examined 1) early science opportunities across classroom contexts in majority Spanish-English DLL Head Start classrooms, 2) the languages (i.e., English and Spanish) that teachers used to engage DLL children in science, 3) and how teachers’ discussion of scientific and engineering practices and disciplinary core ideas related to children’s academic outcomes. In a sample of 411 children (ages 3-5) from 34 Head Start classrooms, the current study found that teachers discussed and encouraged more practices during science lessons than circle time, dramatic play, and story time. There were no differences in teachers’ discussion of core ideas across contexts. Teachers used the same amount of English and Spanish to discuss practices and core ideas. Teaching physical science was associated with children’s science outcomes. Making observations and discussing life science were associated with children’s math outcomes. Teaching math, making observations, and developing and using models were related to children’s executive functioning. Findings from this study demonstrate that science opportunities occur across preschool classroom settings. Additionally, it provides evidence that teachers may be supporting DLL children’s home language while discussing science. Finally, results indicate that teaching science supports children’s academic performance in several outcomes. These findings have implications for DLL education policy as science may be a domain where teachers can support children’s home language and their learning across multiple domains.
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