Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Choosing a Topic

Choosing a topic is the first step in beginning science inquiry in your classroom. Before choosing your topic, think about ideas that your students have already been wondering about. Choose a topic that will be of interest to your particular class of students. In Science in Pre-K our topics centered on physical science and included Building Structures, Shadows, Light, Water, Air, and Gravity.

When students encounter something in the world around them and ask about it, this is the time to delve into exploring that phenonmenon. Once you have chosen your topic, you will move through the inquiry cycle at pace that works for your students and your curriculum.

  • After introducing the topic to your students they will move from exploring materials related to the topic, to reflecting on their explorations.

  • You will then provide challenges for them based on their interests in the topic, and students will explore that challenge. 

  • Students will then develop ideas about the science of this topic. 

  • You will continue to follow your students interests and offer new ideas to explore on this topic, and the cycle moves through again. 

  • Once you have gone through at least one cycle, this can be a good time to introduce a new topic for your students. 


It may seem a little daunting to think about choosing science inquiry topics to teach to your students. Whatever topic you choose, it is important to remember the way that young children learn. Science topics should be concrete and visible to young children. Abstract topics can be far beyond the reach of 3, 4, and 5 year olds. However, if you are interested in abstract subjects, such as Exploring Space, start at the very beginning with phenomena that students can observe. The sky, moon, and stars are excellent examples. 

We have many ideas for physical science topics on this website for you to explore, and resources to show you where to find information on the life sciences. Check out some of our resources to explore other topics in early childhood science inquiry.