Kitchen Lab 4 Kids: a project funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union

The role of science in basic education – particularly in pre-primary and primary schools – has changed in the course of the last years: in the last two decades, scientific disciplines have assumed a fundamental role in comprehensive training of children but few projects investigated on how to improve the quality of science learning in Early Childhood Education and, furthermore, on how to prepare pre-school teachers to teach science at early stages of development. Young children actively engage with their environment to develop fundamental understandings of the phenomena they are observing and experiencing.

These basic scientific concepts and science process skills begin to develop as early as infancy, with the sophistication of children’s competency developing with age. (Piaget & Inhelder, 2000).

Science education for very young children is certainly challenging, because in this context the teacher’s task is to establish a link between “common” knowledge (knowledge of the “real world”) and scientific knowledge, between “play” and “school learning”.

As demonstrated by a longitudinal study, carried out in the USA on a sample of 8462 children (Sackes et al., 2011), early scientific experiments in kindergartens affect the development of scientific knowledge and skills in children at school. It is essential to promote – right since pre-primary and primary school – science education, helping children acquire scientific knowledge and a scientific mind-set, i.e. teaching the children how to develop critical thinking skills. Science education encompasses not only content-based instruction but also process skills, creativity, experimentation and problem-solving. By introducing science in developmentally appropriate ways, we can support young children’s sensory explorations of their world and provide them with foundational knowledge and skills for lifelong science learning, as well as an appreciation of nature.

KLab4Kids will involve students, educators and parents in helping very young children (age 2-6) integrate knowledge across disciplines, connecting science to the real world and to their own interests and goals. Specifically they will help them connect cooking to science, using ludic approaches to help them see food as an object of investigation.
Educators will encourage children to explore science concepts through a basic simple lab (made of things that are also available at home) and to have them relate what is observed or discussed at school to the world outside the classroom. The idea is to build more attractive education programmes in line with children’s individual needs.

KLab4Kids is also aimed at making children aware of dangers in the kitchen that, according to experts, can be considered the most dangerous room in the house. We will also make children aware of the importance of consuming safe and edible food. They will learn about food spoilage, shelf life, and methods to extend the life of specific food items. The idea of a laboratory based on food and on food transformation procedures is aimed at enhancing active learning using multisensory, multidisciplinary and hands-on approaches, fostering critical thinking skills by addressing cultural and environmental context in teaching science through kitchen.