Learning About the World

Learning About the World

Learning About the World—is an active process of making sense about the world around us, discovering regularities and patterns, and exploring big ideas! Children naturally engage and interact with family and friends to make sense of their discoveries. Mathematics, Science and Social Studies are the primary domains in this section.


Mathematics is the active process of making sense of the world around us, discovering regularities and patterns, and exploring big ideas related to number, operations, measurement, geometry, and spatial reasoning. “The process of constructing meaning is the process of learning. We actually create our knowledge; we do not discover it.” (Fosnot and Dolk, 2001)

Vermont Early Learning Standards (August 2015) 1. Children naturally engage in mathematics as they solve problems in their environment within a community. They interact with peers and adults in their world and make sense of their discoveries. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) affirm that high-quality, challenging, and accessible mathematics education for 3- to 6-year-old children is a vital foundation for future mathematics learning. In every early childhood setting, children should experience effective, research-based curriculum and teaching practices. Such high-quality classroom practice requires policies, organizational supports, and adequate resources that enable teachers to do this challenging and important work. (http://www.naeyc.org/positionstatements/mathematics.) Young children have the capability and interest to learn meaningful mathematics, which enriches their current intellectual and social experiences and lays the foundation for later learning, and “because math includes generalizations and abstractions, math skills help young children connect ideas, develop logical and abstract thinking, and analyze, question, and understand the world around them.”2 Children learn mathematics, with adult support and through a variety of instructional approaches, involving everyday experiences in the home and the larger environment. Extending mathematical thinking through play, creative activities, practice, and exploration is enhanced when young children also are developing skills to regulate their own learning, emotions and behavior, and communicate effectively with peers and adults. By providing intentional, well-designed and sequenced learning opportunities in a positive learning environment that engages young children and promotes the natural positive disposition that children embody will result in the successful learning of mathematics and understanding of the big ideas and concepts that provide a strong foundation for continued learning throughout their lives. 1 Young Mathematicians at Work; Constructing Number Sense, Addition, and Subtraction, 2001 2 Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework: Ages Birth to Five, 2015 VELS and the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM) All kindergarten through third grade mathematics standards in this document are copied in full from (http://www.corestandards.org/Math). The birth-PreK standards were written to bridge toward the CCSSM and to provide a consistent approach to developing mathematics understanding from birth to grade 3. Current cognitive research was examined in order to fully understanding the development from birth-PreK and careful analysis of the research helped to tie the two sets of standards together.

  • The Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM) provides a set of eight Standards of Mathematical Practice:
  • 1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  • 2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
  • 3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
  • 4. Model with mathematics.
  • 5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
  • 6. Attend to precision.
  • 7. Look for and make use of structure.
  • 8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning

These practices must be encouraged and fostered by parents, caregivers, educators and others, with children of all ages, while children are actively engaged in discovering and learning new mathematics concepts.


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Science for young children, birth through grade 3, is focused on developing habits of mind such as curiosity, questioning, openness to new ideas, and persistence. This is a time when children are experiencing the world around them and enthusiastically constructing knowledge. Science should be relevant, concrete, and at children’s fingertips, allowing for understanding through their senses. Emphasis is on aspects of the natural world that can be explored. The younger the child, the more tangible the experience should be.

Within VELS, science is divided into the elements of physical, life, earth and space science, and engineering design. The indicators for each element provide clear descriptions of what children should know, understand and be able to do by the end of an age span/grade level. For kindergarten through grade three, the performance expectations from the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are included as the indicators. These indicators thoughtfully weave together science and engineering practices, core ideas, and cross-cutting concepts. (For additional information about specific Standards please go to the NGSS website at http://www.nextgenscience.org/.) Children should experience science learning opportunities within a context of science and engineering practices. These practices include asking questions and defining problems; developing and using models; planning and carrying out investigations; analyzing and interpreting data; using mathematics and computational thinking; constructing explanations and designing solutions; engaging in argument based on evidence; and obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information. The emphasis on practices reinforces the need for children to actively engage in investigations that enable them to construct an understanding of the natural world that surrounds them. Educators need the skills and knowledge to support young children’s ways of thinking, inquiring, reasoning and investigating their world. Additionally, cross-cutting concepts that are threaded throughout the physical, life, and earth/space sciences are considered learning goals necessary to achieve science literacy. They serve as “connective tissue” across the domains of science and allow children to develop coherent, predictable views of the natural world. Patterns, cause and effect relationships, cycles, sustainability (stability and change), scale/proportion/quantity, systems, and structure/function are cross-cutting concepts that need to be carefully woven into science experiences that are also rich with content and opportunities for children to work like scientists. In addition to quality science experiences, young children should be provided with engineering design challenges. Engineers ask questions; imagine possibilities; and then plan, design, and construct solutions. They revisit their work and make improvements. Children are born engineers! They are fascinated by intriguing problems and delight in building, taking things apart, and investigating how things work.

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  • ElementsGoals
  • Physical SciencesChildren construct concepts of the properties of matter, sound, motion and energy through inquiry, exploration and investigations.
  • Life SciencesChildren construct concepts about the characteristics of living organisms, their biology and ecosystems through exploration and investigations.
  • Earth and Space SciencesChildren construct concepts about Earth’s systems, the impacts of human activity on these systems, and Earth’s place in the universe through observations, exploration, and investigations.
  • Engineering DesignChildren design, experiment, construct, alter, and problem solve to modify the natural world and meet their needs and wants.

Social Studies

Social Studies is an interdisciplinary field that includes sociology, anthropology, economics, civics, geography, and history. Through social studies and the many interactions they have, children come to understand their place and relationship to their family, community, environment, and the world; and they learn to become informed, involved and responsible citizens.

Children first learn about society, civic behavior, and culture through their personal experiences as a member of a family, a class, and the community in which they live. They learn about democracy through opportunities with adults and other children, following and making rules, asking questions, resolving problems with others, and voicing an opinion. Through play and real life experiences, children learn economics and geography; they learn about their own history, how people are similar to and different from them, and how to respect those differences. Through the interdisciplinary field we refer to as “Social Studies”, children have learning experiences that will enable them to develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world (NCSS). Vermont’s Social Studies Standards for young children from infancy to third grade are aligned with the state’s History and Social Sciences Grade Expectations (GEs) for PREK-K, 1-2, and 3-4, the 2015 Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework, Ages Birth to Five, and are informed by the College, Career, and Civic Life Framework for Social Studies State Standards (NCSS). The Social Studies domain in the VELS is divided into five elements that track to the GEs: Inquiry; Physical and Cultural Geography (Family and Community); Civics, Government and Society; History; and Economics. Since the Social Studies Grade Expectations (GEs) are presented in clusters of two grades, the indicators are written to be assessed at the end of the grade cluster rather than at each grade level. Children experiencing developmental delays may need additional time and intentional adult guidance and support to achieve the goals of the Social Studies domain. Nevertheless, the expectations are the same for all children. It is incumbent upon the adults to design environments and accommodations that will enable all children to access and participate in various activities related to social studies with their peers.

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  • ElementsGoals
  • InquiryChildren make sense of the world around them by actively gathering and interpreting information.
  • Family and Community; Civics, Government & SocietyChildren identify themselves initially as belonging to a family, a group and a community; eventually they develop awareness of themselves as members of increasingly wider circles of society and learn the skills needed to be a contributing member of society.
  • Physical & Cultural GeographyChildren construct concepts about the physical characteristics and locations of familiar to more distant places, and the impacts of people on the environment. They also construct concepts about their own cultural identity and learn to appreciate others’ cultures.
  • HistoryChildren develop concepts about the passage of time, how the past has been interpreted, and the ability to connect the past with the present.
  • EconomicsChildren describe how people interact economically and the occupations that people do to support themselves and society. They also learn about the economic interdependent relationships among people in our society.

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