Dialogue on Early Childhood Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education

Perspectives

Toward a Research Agenda in Early Childhood Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education

Alverna M. Champion

“It takes a village to raise a child.” This well-worn African adage is no less true today than it was when the thought was first made word. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and input from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) of the Department of Education, brought the global village together in February of 1998. Mathematicians and scientists, researchers and practitioners, teachers and administrators, and policy makers from near and abroad gathered in Washington, DC, for a dynamic Forum on Early Childhood Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education. We came together as a unique community: each with different views, beliefs, and ideals but all with similar commitments to improving the lives, opportunities, and fates of young children aged 3 to 5.

We left the forum ready to inform the world about science, mathematics, and technology education for young children. We left revitalized to teach those who heretofore have been categorized as un-teachable. We left eager to encourage the alienated. We left amenable to welcome, with open arms, the disenfranchised. We left equipped to release the shackles from those children who are tethered to labels such as “at-risk.” We left as we had come, reciting the mantra, “All children can learn,” but now we actually believed it.

champ.jpg (10826 bytes)With so much synergy at work, how can the National Science Foundation afford not to support projects carefully crafted to improve the teaching and learning of mathematics, science, and technology for young children? With the needs of young children gaining the spotlight at all levels of government, it is important that we seize the day. Submit a proposal! Consider the following possibilities.

Margaret “Midge” Cozzens, the former director of the Elementary, Secondary, and Informal Science Education (ESIE) Division of the National Science Foundation, observed, “We don’t have a good synthesis of the research on early childhood education as it relates to mathematics, science and technology.” The Division of Re search, Evaluation, and Communications and ESIE offer opportunities for funding in the areas of research, evaluation, and assessment.

Hyman Field, acting director of ESIE, adds to Midge’s statement by encouraging the submission of proposals that would enhance young children’s learning of mathematics, science, and technology in settings outside the formal classroom. Proposals for increasing parental involvement are a priority.

NSF has recently funded five projects on the development of early childhood instructional materials. NSF, in funding a variety of projects, seeks to learn more about what works, under what conditions, and for whom. These projects are not intended to be exemplars; they are intended to serve as examples. Funding innovative and creative instructional materials development projects that focus on substantive mathematics, science, and technology is particularly important to NSF.


Alverna M. Chapion is professor of mathematics at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI.

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Copyright 1999 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)