SOCIAL SCIENCES & ALGORITHMIC THINKING SKILLS
Social sciences in preschool education include many themes which are easy to adapt in PlayBL and algorithmic thinking skills. Social sciences are defined as the “part of a school curriculum concerned with the study of social relationships and the functioning of society” (Seefeldt et al. 2014). The knowledge and skills learned through social sciences prepare children to become informed and engaged citizens of their country and the world. Including social sciences in learning young children, provides an opportunity for adults to support children as they are developing a sense of self and an awareness of their family and community. Preschool programs in Slovenia, Finland, the USA, and many other countries have a formal social sciences or social studies curriculum and many everyday preschool experiences provide a foundation for social studies skills.
Initially, young children’s focus is on themselves and their families. As they enter preschool, their world widens to include the school or caregiving environment. And as children grow and develop during the preschool years, they begin to understand that though they are individuals, they exist not only within a family and school but also within other larger contexts, such as their neighbourhood and community. They begin to see that they have a role to play within each of these contexts: They are a son or daughter, a sister or brother, a student or friend, a neighbour or community member. Young children learn how to act as a member of these wider communities, being loving, helpful, respectful, and contributing to the greater good. All these themes are excellent opportunities to learn algorithmic thinking skills through Play-based Learning.
At the same time, they are becoming aware that there are other members of these communities who make contributions to their own well-being and that of the other community members. They are fascinated by police officers and firefighters. They imitate doctors, nurses, grocery clerks, and teachers. Preschool teachers can lead them in studies of topics within their community, including businesses, community services, and the jobs and responsibilities of adults, which are all overlapping with algorithmic thinking skills, as in many of those themes we can set board games, playing corners for free play or other PlayBL activities which would facilitate algorithmic thinking. These studies enable children to develop the intellectual habits of investigation and inquiry as they learn how to transform their curiosity into questions and then represent what they have learned using developing skills in language, fine arts, and play (Licardo, 2017).
As children learn about broader communities and their members, their sense of geography expands. They become aware that there are other neighbourhoods, other cities, and a larger country. They begin to see how these spaces and locations can be described and studied using maps, pictures, and diagrams. As they enter the primary years, their world will widen even more, and they will begin to understand that other communities exist in other environments. Their investigations in these early years enable children to have confidence and enthusiasm for finding answers to the compelling questions of the social sciences as they continue in their schooling. By incorporating social studies in the early years, teachers are establishing the foundation for a democracy. They help preschool children to develop group participation skills, such as social negotiation and problem-solving, communicating about one’s needs, and making decisions as a group. Experiences in social studies provide a foundation for the skills needed to become an active, aware, and productive citizen (Licardo, 2017).