Science and Social Studies

Incorporate science and social studies into your TK curriculum to help your youngest learners make sense of the world around them

Young children love learning about the world around them! Learning about science, history, geography, current events, and other cultures not only prepares children for their later school years, it also supports emergent literacy. Research demonstrates that a large part of reading comprehension is based not only on understanding the mechanics of literacy—letter recognition, phonics, etc.—but also on having a preexisting concept of the subject you are reading about. In one study, researchers read a group of preschoolers a book about birds (which they had determined that higher-income children knew more about than did lower-income children) and another book about an imaginary animal called “wugs.” When children were tested on their comprehension of the bird book, the higher-income children did significantly better. However, when tested on their knowledge of “wugs,” the achievement gap disappeared. The higher-income children did not possess better listening comprehension of the book on birds than their lower-income peers—they just knew more about birds to begin with.1 By incorporating science and social studies into your Transitional Kindergarten (TK) curriculum, you can make sure that all your children gain information that will help them succeed in Kindergarten and beyond!


Children are natural scientists who love to learn about the world around them! Science is a wonderful way to incorporate hands-on and outdoor learning into your daily routine. In addition, many of the skills practiced during science, such as describing, comparing, and contrasting, also support emerging literacy. Science lessons provide authentic experiences in which all children have the opportunity to learn and practice new vocabulary. For example, in learning about plants, children may learn words such as stem, roots, soil, dirt, buds, and petals. Similarly, in learning about the habitats of animals in their natural area, they may learn words such as nest, ocean, or shelter. These opportunities to learn vocabulary when combined with hands-on experiences in a science lesson can be particularly helpful for Dual Language Learners (DLLs) and children with special needs.

The Preschool Learning Foundations2 identifies four areas of science for the TK classroom:

  1. Scientific Inquiry: Observation, investigation, documentation, and communication.
  2. Physical Science: Characteristics and physical properties of objects and materials, changes in objects and materials, and the motion of objects.
  3. Life Science: Core concepts related to properties and characteristics of living things and their growth and change over time.
  4. Earth Science: Exploring and investigating characteristics and physical properties of earth materials in the immediate environment and observing and describing changes in the earth, including the movement and apparent changes of natural objects in the sky (e.g., sun, moon) and changes in the seasons and weather by using weather-related vocabulary.
Incorporate Science and Social Studies in TK Classroom Social Studies and Science in Transitional Kindergarten

Social Studies

At this age, children are just beginning to understand the world outside their own family. TK is a great opportunity for children to begin exploring their local community and their place in it.

The Preschool Learning Foundations3 identifies five areas of History and Social Studies that should be addressed in the TK classroom:

  1. Self and Society: Beginning to identify with how their family does things, and understand that other families and people have ways of doing things that are different or similar to what their family does.
  2. Becoming a Preschool Community Member (Civics): How to live with others and how rules work, such as taking turns to go down the slide.
  3. Sense of Time (History): Events that happened in the past, even before they were born, such as when their mom was a little girl.
  4. Sense of Place (Geography and Ecology): The location of familiar places in relation to each other, such as knowing the way to preschool, that the park is across the street from the grocery store, or the different kinds of places where people live; learning to take care of the earth and animals (for example, not wasting water).
  5. Marketplace (Economics): Beginning understanding of money and the exchange of things and services, such as groceries purchased at the store.
1 Wexler, N. (2019). Elementary Education has Gone Terribly Wrong.
2 California Department of Education (2012). California Preschool Learning Foundations, Volume 3.
3 ibid