Welcome to our early science blog.

View posts by our early science blogger to gain valuable insights into the developing brain and learn about activities that you can easily incorporate into your early childhood curriculum to foster the development of early science skills in young learners.

Check back often so you don’t miss a single blog—and join in the conversation by asking questions or leaving comments at the end of each post.

About our blogger Diann Gano, M.Ed

Diann Gano

Diann Gano, M.Ed

Diann Gano—who opened her family child care program, Under the Gingko Tree in 1986—has long believed that “the earth gives us what we need to learn” and that nature is “the perfect environment for little brains to grow and learn in every day.” While conducting research for her master’s thesis on outdoor learning in early childhood settings, she learned about the Nature Explore Classroom Certification Program, which recognizes schools and other organizations that have made a commitment to providing outdoor classrooms and comprehensive programming to help children use the natural world as an integral part of learning. She enrolled in the Nature Explore Classroom certification program after completing her master’s degree in 2010, and Under the Ginkgo Tree was certified as a Nature Explore Certified Outdoor Classroom Program in 2011.

A member of the Erikson Family Child Care Portal Project Advisory Board, Gano has also participated in the Erikson Institute’s Early Childhood Leadership Summit and served as a webinar panelist for Town Square Illinois, an online resource and professional development tool for home-based providers. She has presented at the local, state and national levels on topics such as indoor and outdoor learning environments, the importance of loose parts in early math education and the impact of immersion in the natural world on brain development in young children. In 2016, Gano was honored as a recipient of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Child Care Innovator Award for creating a school environment that inspires children to become more active and engaged learners. In May 2019, she received the prestigious Terri Lynn Lokoff/Children’s Tylenol National Teacher Award, which honors 50 outstanding early child care professionals across the nation each year for making a lasting difference in the lives of the children they serve and setting them on a path to success in school and in life. She received her BS in liberal arts from Western Illinois University and her MEd in education from St. Mary of the Woods College in Indiana.

Playground Physics

  “Noa, what are you doing?” questions Jose. “I’m giving this rock a swing!” giggles Noa as she embarks on her latest investigation into force and motion. “Are you sure that will work?” James asks. “I think the rock will fall off!” We all stop what we are doing to observe as Noa cautiously pulls […]

Finding STEM in a Ball of Clay

  Two-year-old Eleanor squeals with delight: “I did it! I made a ball! Look, I made a ball!” Whether they are using homemade play dough, modeling clay or Play-Doh from a can, children can spend hours learning, playing and collaborating with that little ball of STEM magic. STEM play integrates science, technology, engineering and math […]

Finding STEM in Piles of Dirt

  On a recent walk around the neighborhood, we stumble into a scientific gold mine: piles of sand, silt and clay that have not yet been graded and groomed into a baseball diamond.   “Look! What is that?” asks one child whose curiosity is clearly piqued.  “Can we play on those piles of dirt?” another […]

STEM Dolls for Character Play

We recently learned about Surprise Powerz STEM dolls, which can be used in early childhood settings to encourage young children—especially young girls—to engage in STEM play.   Research shows that preschool teachers often lack confidence in their ability to teach STEM topics—and some harbor gender-based assumptions about STEM learning. These attitudes and biases can be […]

Root Beer Float Investigations

“Can we make a concoction today?” asks Malhar, one of our budding scientists. It’s a hot Thursday afternoon and everyone is a little shagged from the heat—including me. A concoction sounds like a messy, energy-sapping endeavor, but Malhar is insistent. “Do you have any root beer?” he whispers to me after looking around to make […]

Tinkering With Nature

  Last month, the Early Science Matters team presented at the Midwest Early Childhood Educators Symposium. Sponsored by the Northern Illinois Nature Preschool Association, the symposium took place at a particularly inspiring site for nature lovers: the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois. Surrounded by nature and in the company of a truly amazing audience of […]

The Solid State of Crayons

  “It is so hot!” moans five-year-old Manual, who is sweating profusely in the sweltering heat. The temperature—which has soared unexpectedly during this second week of May—is in the high 90s, with a heat index of over 100. “It is so hot!” Can we have a popsicle?” pleads Lauren, who knows that I’m a sucker […]

A Morning in the Science Lab

“Who wants to play chemistry with me?” asks five-year-old Katie. “What is that?” asks Annika as she jumps off of her swing to see what adventures this moment may bring. “You mix things up, like concoctions or recipes,” Katie explains. “Sometimes things change colors or the mixture gets real thick and gooey. It’s an experiment. […]

A World of STEM in a Dandelion Puff

  “No, Trey!  You have to blow out—like when you blow out the candles on a birthday cake,” Noah counsels. “Don’t suck the seeds in!” I look over to see Trey, our youngest learner, pulling dandelion seeds off of his lips. There are no giggles from his peers, just many suggestions and a short science […]

Scrap Gardening for STEM Learners

  “Did the lettuce sprout today?” asks Jamie as he enters the classroom, heading over to our classroom “scrap garden” to see for himself without stopping to take off his coat. “It has!” squeals Evelyn, her eyes wide with excitement. “You won’t believe how high it has grown!” Our investigation into scrap gardening has clearly […]