Children are involved in scientific thinking and activities before they even enter the classroom. They seek knowledge in various ways: stabbing, pulling, tasting, hitting, shaking and trying. This shows the natural needs in each child to learn and find problems to solve .
By creating opportunities to observe and move through games, children’s scientific thinking can be aroused. Playing offers a valuable opportunity for children to learn basic science. This can happen because playing is a natural thing for early childhood.
In a newly published study , I explored the reasoning behind the idea that when playing free with music can encourage scientific exploration at the beginning of childhood. As part of my study, I observed pre-school children during free play time from two daycare centers in Mohadin, South Africa.
The time for free play with music is carried out in an environment that has been prepared by the teacher (even though the children themselves have the initiative to start playing). This space stimulates a child to experiment and explore sounds through music.
I specifically focus on forms of music-inspired games because music is one of the natural “tools” that can be accessed by early childhood to express their thoughts, feelings, and desires. Art and music activities foster emotional development, imagination, creativity and gross motor skills.
When children are given time to explore not only innate musicality that is developed and channeled. Playing and exploring time also creates independence, flexibility and facilitiesfor early childhood and provides unexpected moments when they can integrate music into their learning process. While playing they can also explore the scientific world.
Through this observation, I was able to build a model that illustrates the reasons for music-inspired games to foster curiosity about science that can be used by early childhood teachers if they want to use the time to play freely with music to increase the interest in children’s scientific learning.
How a game can become learning
There is a difference between scientific thinking and scientific fact learning.
Scientific thinking involves children in the process of seeking knowledge by guiding them to make their own discoveries. Teachers can instill scientific thinking by looking at early childhood as active students rather than merely as recipients of knowledge.
They can offer various opportunities to explore and experiment that allow children to build meaning and understanding that are not only valid but also valuable in ongoing intellectual development.
For example, pre-school children can learn the scientific concept of momentum by swinging on a swing rhythmically while singing at the same time. When the swing gets momentum, the song’s singing will be faster so that it can align with the swing movement speed. As the swing slows, the songs sung by the students will slow down and they are asked to stop moving their feet so that the swing slows to a stop.
Early childhood can also learn how to produce sound using their own voices and vocal cords that vibrate to make different sounds.
This kind of voluntary learning helps reduce the impact of failure. Children will not be easily frustrated because they are actually allowed to be creative and expressive where they can make their own decisions.
The involvement of teachers in free play time is very important because without direction it might be that the desired learning target is not achieved . The involvement of the teacher does not mean that the educator must intervene or directly facilitate play time. Teachers can create a comfortable environment, offer opportunities and prepare their students with experience, skills, and musical knowledge that can be used during play time.
The involvement of educators can broaden students’ knowledge. They can also provide examples of skills and strategies that can be used by children to transform play experiences into learning experiences.
When playing freely with music does not have to be done in the playground. This can also be done in the classroom: for example, children can tap their pencil with a certain rhythm while they wait for the teacher to distribute the book.
For my research, I used materials from previous studies supported by observations in two playgrounds on the outskirts of the city.
By observing students in these schools during breaks and in class, I can identify and explore practical examples of the relationship between music and science during free play time.
Children from both playgrounds create various variations of sounds, phrases, and spontaneous music songs to accompany their playing time. Some children tell me about sound production and how they form their own scientific concepts through role-playing games inspired by music – for example, by pretending to be famous people.
A child frankly told me that because the tonsils were removed, his voice sounded different as he tried to imitate the sounds of other people’s singing. Before the surgical removal of the tonsils, the tone of his voice was much higher, but now he felt it was easier to imitate someone who had a low-pitched hoarse voice.
Then I created a model that encourages early childhood educators to create opportunities to learn through reflection and exploration during free play time. The basic idea is that once playground children are given experience with music, music can be integrated into their playing time to foster a sense of wanting to explore the scientific world.
The learning system based on the principle of constructivism, as explained by Joseph Shively, is “how we interpret our experience and know the world.” I adapted the concept to explain how children interpret musical experiences and get to know the world through scientific exploration.
In this model, facilitating and providing musical skills, experience and knowledge to children is the first stage. Then students can use the skills, activities and knowledge of music in their free play time in a fun and rich learning environment. Responsive education will create this learning environment so that it can continue to care for the development of the scientific exploration of the students.
Author Bio: Mignon van Vreden is a Senior lecturer, Music education at North-West University