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Brain Research: Scientific thinking starts early

Brain Research: Scientific thinking starts early

Status: 11/29/2022 1:20 PM

How do I test an observation or hypothesis? Children develop the cornerstone of scientific thinking at the age of six – earlier than previously thought. What matters is whether the parents support it.

Even six-year-olds show amazing skills in scientific reasoning – this is the first finding A study showing scientific thinking in children From kindergarten to the end of primary school. Susanne Korber, professor of early education at the University of Education Freiburg, and her colleague Christopher Osterhaus, junior professor of developmental psychology at Vechta University, accompanied 150 well-rounded children for five years and tested them again and again.

Above all, the research team asked how the children deal with certain phenomena, says Korber: “We recorded basic skills in scientific reasoning. This is a construct made up of many different skills. And you could say there is an understanding of what it means to test assumptions effectively.”

How do you test scientific thinking?

In order to find out if children really master the basics of scientific reasoning, the research team tested kindergarten children and primary school students with simple basic experiment tasks in one-on-one interviews. For example, the following story was told, says Korber: “Tom wants to know if his dog can jump high. He wants to tempt him with a sausage. What should he do now to find out?”

As a rule, children under the age of six understand that they have to test their guess. This means that Tom should hold the sausage and not hold it in front of the dog. Another example asked how to know whether plants should be watered with cold water or with warm water to make them grow better.

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In fact, elementary school children already knew that they should take the same kind of plant and water it with cold water on one side and warm water on the other, and then see: Where do plants grow best? So they knew not to take different types of plants to keep other traits constant.

Home is crucial

As early as kindergarten age, the study revealed significant differences in children’s ability to think scientifically. Children’s ability to think scientifically is related to their parents’ education level. It is clear that educated parents communicate differently with their children.

This does not mean that they talk a lot about science and scientific discoveries, nor that they go to experimental shows or museums very often. It relates to a particular situation in everyday life, says Korber: “We discover an unusual phenomenon and make assumptions about what it might be. And how it might be tested. So: How do I know if my assumption, I have, is correct?”

The defects also remain stable in primary school

Unfortunately, even later in primary school, it is rarely possible to promote scientific thinking in all children. The study showed: The disadvantages of some children in kindergartens still exist in the primary stage, although many kindergartens and primary schools make an effort. For example, they do experiments suitable for kindergarten – such as a baking powder volcano erupting.

Not only is it important for the experiment to inspire enthusiasm, says Korber, but “for the kids to make assumptions about why the baking powder volcano is now erupting. What led to that?”

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What parents and schools can do

The researchers suggest that there should be more practice in elementary school on how to put different opinions or hypotheses to the test. And last but not least, children must also learn to embrace different perspectives. Because this is also an important basis for scientific thinking.

Incidentally, the study found no differences between the sexes. Both boys and girls are interested in science and are able to think scientifically.