Our role in education is to prepare children for the future. Because we cannot predict the problems of tomorrow, we need to equip our children with flexible and adaptive skills. These skills are called 21st century thinking skills.
Science is an exciting and strong platform to support building 21st century thinking skills, especially the learning skills of critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication. (NRC, 2021).
The National Education Association (NEA) has been a leading proponent of the “21st Century Skills” movement since it began in 2002. Four skills have emerged as the most important in education. These four skills, known as the “Four C’s”, include critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication (National Education Association, 2012).
As young children engage in science, they are engaging in practices such as asking questions, making predictions, investigating, and documenting. In essence, they are solving problems. To do so, children need to be:
· Critical thinkers as they make predictions, analyze and interpret data, construct explanations and design solutions.
· Creative as they develop and test new ideas and solutions.
· Collaborative as they learn that they will often need the help and support of their peers and teachers.
· Communicative as they share the information they have learned with others.
We can lay the foundation for the development of these skills through science beginning in the early years. The hands-on, minds-on nature of high-quality science will prepare children to be the innovators and leaders of tomorrow in our ever-changing world.
National Education Association. (2012). Preparing 21st century students for a global society: An educator’s guide to the “Four Cs”. Alexandria, VA: National Education Association.
National Research Council. (2010). Exploring the intersection of science education and 21st century skills: A workshop summary. National Academies Press.