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"So much is going on in children's brains when they are doing something as simple as pouring water," says Joanna Garner, vice president for program development at CLS. She provides teachers and parents with a "science-behaviors checklist" they can use to determine how well children are using tools, observing, drawing conclusions, and making predictions.
Evaluations show that the children's vocabulary for the names and functions of science tools increased significantly over a 5-month period during the 2005 program and that most of them were able to select the appropriate tool to solve a new problem. The results "tell us that children not only know how to use the tools but are also more likely to transfer that knowledge into a new situation," says Garner.
"When we looked at outcomes," adds CLS president Keith Verner, a former HHMI grantee at the Penn State College of Medicine, "we saw increases that were not dependent on a particular teacher or a particular class. We believe it was the program itself that made the difference."
Loudoun County's Scovel agrees, noting that the program has been particularly valuable in the absence of preschool science standards. "We don't want to repeat what children will learn in kindergarten, but we want to build skills they can use in kindergarten and beyond."