The Child and the Scientist

A supplement to the Inquiry Project

A child and a scientist often have very different ideas about the world around us. Our challenge is to identify the difference between how the child and the scientist think about matter, and then to help the child to move closer toward the scientist’s way of thinking.

As a supplement to the Inquiry Project, this collection of essays expresses both views. Each curriculum begins with two essays.  The first essay, by Professor Roger Tobin, presents the scientist’s perspective about the science content that is introduced in the section. The second essay, by Professor Carol Smith, presents the child’s perspective, and explains why the science concepts may be hard for students to understand. As a group, these thirteen pairs of essays cover a network of concepts relevant to understanding matter. The network of concepts is developed throughout the learning progression (across grades 3-5), using language and concepts that children can understand. The essays are collected here to be easily accessed at any point in the curriculum. We encourage you to refer to them prior to teaching, as they bring forward the nuances of the concepts and how children perceive them.