Dialogue on Early Childhood Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education

Preface

To thrive in a world increasingly shaped by science and technology, our children and grandchildren must own—in their own hands and minds—a basic understanding of how the world works, how we have come to know what we know, and the abilities to learn useful new knowledge and skills. Literacy in science, mathematics, and technology is not an option for the future. But where and when do we start?

Recent educational research suggests that even very young children have the ability to comprehend their world from a scientific perspective. Some studies indicate that children as young as three years old may be capable of concept-based theoretical learning. New research on how the brain develops during these early years promises to help us understand how young children learn mathematics and science. But what do we make of these findings? And how do we put them to good use in pursuing our goal of literacy?

In February 1998 a multidisciplinary group of more than 100 experts gathered in Washington, DC for the Forum on Early Child hood Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education. At the request of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the nation’s most accomplished educators, scholars, and researchers convened for three days to discuss how, when, and even if we should teach science, mathematics, and technology to pre-kindergarten children. This book, Dialogue on Early Childhood Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education is a product of that meeting.

Dialogue on Early Childhood Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education represents some of the latest thinking about early childhood science, mathematics, and technology education. It brings together 11 papers on wide-ranging topics commissioned by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for the forum. Among the intriguing ideas to emerge from these papers are the following:

The book also contains an extensive bibliography and list of resources for educators, parents, and education groups to use as they seek the best science, mathematics, and technology experiences for young children. We hope that this book both sustains

the conversation begun at the forum and encourages more of the community to participate.

Many people contributed to the success of the forum and to this book. From NSF, Dr. Margaret Cozzens, former director of the Elementary, Secondary, and Informal Education Division, initiated the project; Dr. Janice Earle, Project 2061’s program officer, helped identify the funding; Dr. Alverna Champion, program officer, and Dr. Patricia Kenny, director of NSF’s spectacular new Child Development Center, worked closely with us in every aspect of both the forum and book. From AAAS, Mary Koppal, communications director, organized both the conference and this book; Natalie Nielson and Terry Handy skillfully edited the manuscript; Barbara Walthal and Tracy Gath compiled the extensive bibliography and resource list; Lester Matlock, project administrator, handled all of the logistics for the forum. I am grateful to all for their dedication and hard work. Finally, I thank all of the authors for their thoughtful contributions to this volume.

George D. Nelson Director, Project 2061

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