Little Scientists

By Christine Schneyer

Little scientists at work

Little scientists at work

Little Scientists is a not-for-profit initiative designed to facilitate children's curiosity for science, mathematics and technology through age-appropriate, fun and playful experiments in their early years.

Its overarching goal is to improve access to high quality education for all children from an early age and to ensure the competitiveness of the country’s workforce in the future, especially in scientific, engineering and technical occupations.

The initiative was launched in Germany by a number of companies (including Siemens, McKinsey and SAP’s Dietmar-Hopp-Foundation) in 2006 and is co-funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

It has become the largest early education initiative in Germany, with more than 1 Million children from 27,000 (out of approximately 40,000) education and care services participating in the program. This would not have been possible without the great support of more than 200 local network partners throughout the country. The program has been introduced to other countries, including Austria, the Netherlands and Thailand (where the Thai Royal Princess is the patron).

Little Scientists has now started operations in Australia, with FROEBEL Australia, a not-for-profit provider of bilingual children’s services, selected as the exclusive partner to establish the initiative nationally. A pilot phase recently brought together 64 teachers and educators from 40 different education and care services to the first Australian Little Scientists workshops in NSW. Local network partners will start the national roll-out in early 2014.

The hands on, one-day Little Scientists workshops are an important element of the program and cover topics such as ‘Water‘, ‘Air‘, ‘Carbon Dioxide‘, ‘Magnets‘ and ‘Mathematics’ as a platform to train teachers and educators. Once completed, teachers can then implement the activities with the children in their care. All workshops are built around using existing, everyday materials, to make experimenting and exploring at the education and care services as accessible as possible.

Another important element is the Little Scientists Research Cycle. This approach to exploration will remain relevant from preschool through to university age and beyond. The Research Cycle entails six steps:

1. Ask questions about nature
2. Collect ideas and hypotheses with the children
3. Try things out and conduct experiments with the children
4. Observe and describe
5. Document results
6. Discuss results with the children

The Little Scientists program not only encourages scientific exploration, but also aids in the development of fine motor skills, self-confidence, social skills and language, it is an excellent tool for teachers and educators to meet a range of requirements of the National Quality Framework (NQF) and the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF).

Furthermore, the reservations teachers and educators may have towards scientific, technological and mathematical topics can be reduced and their interest in these topics sparked.

Offering a comprehensive and sustained professional development opportunity for teachers and educators in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related areas, the program develops teachers and educators who will help nurture the next generations of STEM graduates and develop STEM literacy in young people who move on to do other things.

More information

If you would like to support the future of science, technology and mathematics in Australia and help to make Little Scientists available for all children in Australia, please contact the Project Manager Christine Schneyer via email or by calling 02 8080 0065.

Find out more about Little Scientists