The Early Years: Inquiry at Playby: Peggy Ashbrook

Journal ArticleDigital resources are stored online in your NSTA Library.

Play and science inquiry are essential parts of early childhood programs. Imaginative play, unscripted yet guided by children’s own rules, allows students to use their imagination and develop self-regulation, symbolic thinking, memory, language, and social skills, as well as construct their knowledge and understanding of the world. Play can reflect what children learn while engaged in science inquiry. Like play, science inquiry helps children make sense of their world and appreciate the work of scientists.

  • Elementary
Publication Date

Community ActivitySaved in 307 Libraries

Reviews (7)
  • on Mon Oct 29, 2018 2:48 AM

It sounds really great that encourage students to play the role of a scientist! Actually, I do think it is an effective way to help students know that science is close to our daily life and scientists are also the average men like us. In the process of playing, we can also cultivate students' critical thinking and independent thinking. In the article I read, it also mentioned that teachers can have students make their "claims" based upon evidence from the related article and their investigations, like "Does my evidence support my claim? Do I explain so that another student can make sense of my answer?", and remind students that scientists are people who, like us, "see" different things in the same data or describe data in different ways.


  • on Thu Sep 27, 2018 6:37 PM

Inquiry at Play states that play and science inquiry are important for early childhood programs. Children can develop their imagination, self-regulation, symbolic thinking, memory, language, and social skills through imaginative play. Also, science inquiry can help children have a better understanding of the world and the work of scientists. It includes making observations, asking questions, planning investigations, gathering and sharing data, interpreting data, considering alternate explanations, discussing patterns and relationships, solving problems, and asking new questions. And students are supposed to learn about and take part in the science inquiry. In order to teach children about the breadth of science and to think inclusively about scientists, the teacher can cut out and laminate pictures of scientists at work in many settings. Tying the word scientist to a particular person and telling them that scientists work in many settings may also help children understand scientists’ work. Children can make meaning of what they are learning through imaginative play. And at the end of the article, an effective activity is designed for teaching us how to introduce a real scientist. Through playing in the activity, the children are more able to reenact the visit and reveal their understanding of the scientist’s work. As a future educator, this journal article would be extremely helpful to me for when I teach science to my kids. In my future class, I would like to design effective activities and programs to make my students inquiry at play. Then they can have a better understanding of the world and the work of scientists by learning about and participating in the science inquiry. Also, I would try to introduce a real scientist through my classroom and try to help them reenact the visit and reveal their understanding of the scientist’s work.

Zihan Shao
Zihan Shao

  • on Sat Nov 05, 2016 11:06 PM

We have just had the book character parades that usually accompany Halloween. I wish I had read this article by Peggy Ashbrook before the parade. Ashbrook does a beautiful job of tying the importance of play in science to the role playing of scientists. She includes ideas like having photos of scientists and the equipment that the scientist would use for the students to see. She suggested a visit from a real scientist. Additionally, she included ways to become the scientist for a question and answer session by the students. I could see students really becoming engaged in this scientific visit. Ashbrook further stated that students could draw, write, and tell about the experience as it related to the class scientific inquiry. That way, when the administrators thought the children were having too much fun to be learning, the evidence would be in the book. I could see myself becoming a science character. Furthermore, I could see assigning older students a science character to research and present dressed in accurate attire with the proper instruments as props. This article was well-written and easy to adopt to any grade level.

Cara Cook
Cara Cook

  • on Mon Jul 22, 2013 10:30 AM

This article describe a lesson in which a scientist visits the classroom. It can be a real scientist or the teacher dressed up as a scientist. This helps young students avoid sterotyping scientists as existing only in labs. Giving students props and clothes to pretend to be scientists is recommended in this article.

Betty Paulsell  (Kansas City, MO)
Betty Paulsell (Kansas City, MO)

  • on Fri Jul 08, 2011 10:48 AM

This article outlines practical and engaging ideas to introduce inquiry-based science into an elementary classroom. The article also includes a lesson plan to introduce a real scientist into the classroom. This is and excellent article that is a must read for any teacher looking for new ways to introduce inquiry into the classroom.

Maureen Stover  (Seaside, CA)
Maureen Stover (Seaside, CA)

  • on Tue May 10, 2011 2:28 PM

This article equates science inquiry with play as the author connects how children use their imaginations and natural inquisitiveness to construct their knowledge and understanding of the world. The highlighted activity in this article is the “Scientist Visit”. If an actual scientist is not available, the author suggests dressing up like a particular scientist with the appropriate costume. Child’s play really is a budding scientist at work!

Carolyn Mohr  (Buffalo Grove, IL)
Carolyn Mohr (Buffalo Grove, IL)

  • on Thu Aug 25, 2011 12:37 PM

In this play activity students learn about what scientists do by using stories of living scientists (classroom visitors) and biographies of scientists from the past. If none are available having students dress like a scientist can also work. While students should be introduced to what scientists are at an early age this activity might be too young a group (PreK) to comprehend their importance to society today and in the past.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

Free - NSTA Members

$1.29 - Nonmembers

Login or Create a Free Account to add this resource to your library.