Advertisement

Research in Science Education

, Volume 49, Issue 5, pp 1257–1278 | Cite as

Scientific Playworlds: a Model of Teaching Science in Play-Based Settings

  • Marilyn FleerEmail author
Article

Abstract

Eminent scientists, like Einstein, worked with theoretical contradiction, thought experiments, mental models and visualisation—all characteristics of children’s play. Supporting children’s play is a strength of early childhood teachers. Promising research shows a link between imagination in science and imagination in play. A case study of 3 preschool teachers and 26 children (3.6–5.9 years; mean age of 4.6 years) over 6 weeks was undertaken, generating 59.6 h of digital observations and 788 photographs of play practices. The research sought to understand (1) how imaginative play promotes scientific learning and (2) examined how teachers engaged children in scientific play. Although play pedagogy is a strength of early childhood teachers, it was found that transforming imaginary situations into scientific narratives requires different pedagogical characteristics. The study found that the building of collective scientific narratives alongside of discourses of wondering were key determinants of science learning in play-based settings. Specifically, the pedagogical principles of using a cultural device that mirrors the science experiences, creating imaginary scientific situations, collectively building scientific problem situations, and imagining the relations between observable contexts and non-observable concepts, changed everyday practices into a scientific narrative and engagement. It is argued that these unique pedagogical characteristics promote scientific narratives in play-based settings. An approach, named as Scientific Playworlds, is presented as a possible model for teaching science in play-based settings.

Keywords

Early childhood teachers Cultural-historical Science education Playworlds Play Affective imagination 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Sue Mach (field Leader) and the following research assistants supported the data collection process: Megan Adams, Carolina Beltrao, Selena (Yijun) Hao, and Hasnat Jahan. Special thanks to the teachers who willingly and generously gave up their time for the outcomes of this study.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Funding

The study was supported by funds from an Australian Research Council DP130101438.

References

  1. Andersson, K., & Gullberg, A. (2014). What is science in preschool and what do teachers have to know to empower children? Cultural Studies of Science Education, 9(2), 275–296. doi: 10.1007/s11422-012-9439-6.Google Scholar
  2. Andree, M., & Lager-Nyqvist, L. (2013). Spontaneous play and imagination in everyday science classroom practice. Research in Science Education, 43(5), 1735–1750.Google Scholar
  3. Bergen, D. (2009). Play as the learning medium for future scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. American Journal of Play, 1(4), 413–428.Google Scholar
  4. Blake, E., & Howitt, C. (2012). Science in early learning centres: satisfying curiosity, guided play or lost opportunities? In K. C. D. Tan & M. Kim (Eds.), Issues and challenges in science education research: Moving forward (pp. 281–299). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  5. Bretherton, I. (1984). Symbolic play. The development of social understanding. Orlando: Academic Press, Inc.Google Scholar
  6. Bulunuz, M. (2013). Teaching science through play in kindergarten: does integrated play and science instruction build understanding? European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 21(2), 226–249.Google Scholar
  7. Cook, C., Goodman, N. D., & Schulz, L. E. (2011). Where science starts: spontaneous experiments in preschoolers’ exploratory play. Cognition, 120, 341–349.Google Scholar
  8. Cumming, J. (2003). Do runner beans really make you run fast? Young children learning about science-related food concepts in informal settings. Research in Science Education, 33(4), 483–502.Google Scholar
  9. Eshach, H., & Fried, M. N. (2005). Should science be taught in early childhood? Journal of Science Education and Technology, 14(3), 315–336.Google Scholar
  10. Fensham, P. (2015). Connoisseurs of science: a next goal for science education? In D. Corrigan, C. Buntting, J. Dillon, A. Jones, & R. Gunstone (Eds.), The future in learning science. What’s in it for the learner? (pp. 35–59). The Netherlands: Springer.Google Scholar
  11. Ferholt, B. (2010). A synthetic-analytic method for the study of perezhivanie: Vygotsky’s literary analysis applied to Playworlds. In M. C. Connery, V. P. John-Steiner, & A. Marjanovic-Shane (Eds.), Vygotsky and creativity: a cultural-historical approach to play, meaning making, and the arts (pp. 163–179). New York: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  12. Fleer, M. (1995). The importance of conceptually focused teacher-child interaction in early childhood science learning. International Journal of Science Education, 17(3), 325–342. doi: 10.1080/0950069950170305.Google Scholar
  13. Fleer, M. (2009). Supporting scientific conceptual consciousness or learning in a ‘roundabout way’ in play-based contexts. International Journal of Science Education, 31(8), 1069–1089. doi: 10.1080/09500690801953161.Google Scholar
  14. Fleer, M. (2010). Early learning and development: cultural-historical concepts in play. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Fleer, M. (2011). “Conceptual play”: foregrounding imagination and cognition during concept formation in early years education. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 12(3), 224–240.Google Scholar
  16. Fleer, M. (2014). Theorising play in the early years. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Fleer, M. (2016). Theorising digital play—a cultural-historical conceptualisation of children’s engagement in imaginary digital situations, Special Issue on play. Journal of International Research in Early Childhood Education, 7(2), 75–90.Google Scholar
  18. Fleer, M. (2017). Digital playworlds in an Australia context. In T. Bruce, M. Bredikyte, & P. Hakkarainen (Eds.), Routledge handbook of play in early childhood. London: Routledge Press, Taylor and Francis Group.Google Scholar
  19. Fleer, M., & Pramling, N. (2015). A cultural–historical study of children learning science: foregrounding affective imagination in play-based settings. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  20. Fox Keller, E. (1983). A feeling for the organism: life and work of Barbara McClintock. New York: Freeman.Google Scholar
  21. Garbett, D. (2003). Science education in early childhood teacher education: putting forward a case to enhance student teachers’ confidence and competence. Research in Science Education, 33(4), 467–481.Google Scholar
  22. Gelman, R., & Brenneman, K. (2004). Science learning pathways for young children. Early Childhood Education Quarterly, 19, 150–158.Google Scholar
  23. Göncü, A., Jain, J., & Tuerer, U. (2007). Children’s play as cultural interpretation. In A. Göncü & S. Gaskins (Eds.), Play and development. Evolutionary, sociocultural, and functional perspectives (pp. 155–178). New York: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  24. Hadzigeorgiou, Y. (2001). The role of wonder and ‘romance’ in early childhood science education. International Journal of Early Years Education, 9(10), 63–69.Google Scholar
  25. Hadzigeorgiou, Y. (2002). A study of the development of the concept of mechanical stability in preschool children. Research in Science Education, 32(3), 373–391.Google Scholar
  26. Hadzigeorgiou, Y. (2016). Imaginative science education: the central role of imagination in science education. Zurick: Springer International Publishing.Google Scholar
  27. Hakkarainen, P. (2010). Cultural-historical methodology of the study of human development in transitions. Cultural-Historical Psychology, 4, 75–89.Google Scholar
  28. Hakkarainen, P., Bredikyte, M., Jakkula, K., & Munter, H. (2013). Adult play guidance and children’s play development in a narrative play-world. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 21(2), 213–225.Google Scholar
  29. Hannust, T., & Kikas, E. (2007). Children’s knowledge of astronomy and its change in the course of learning. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 22, 89–104.Google Scholar
  30. Hedegaard, M., & Fleer, M. (Eds.). (2008). Studying children. A cultural-historical approach. Maidenhead: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Howitt, C., Lewis, S., & Upson, E. (2011). ‘It’s a mystery’. A case study of implementing forensic science in preschool as scientific inquiry. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 36(3), 45–55.Google Scholar
  32. Kass, L. B. (2003). Records and recollections: a new look at Barbara McClintock, Nobel-prize-winning geneticist. Genetics, 164(4), 1251–1260.Google Scholar
  33. Kravtsov, G. G., & Kravtsova, E. E. (2010). Play in L.S. Vygotsky’s nonclassical psychology. Journal of Russian and East European Psychology, 48(4), 25–41.Google Scholar
  34. Krnel, D., Watson, R., & Glazar, S. A. (2005). The development of the concept of ‘matter’: a cross-age study of how children describe materials. International Journal of Science Education, 27(3), 367–383.Google Scholar
  35. Lillard, A. (2007). Guided participation: how mothers structure and children understand pretend play. In A. Göncü & S. Gaskins (Eds.), Play and development: Evolutionary, sociocultural, and functional perspectives (pp. 131–153). New York: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  36. Lindqvist, G. (1995). The aesthetics of play: a didactic study of play and culture in preschools. (Doctoral dissertation). Uppsala Studies in Education, 62, 1–234. Uppsala, Sweden: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis.Google Scholar
  37. Martins Teizeira, F. (2000). What happens to the food we eat? Children’s concepts of the structure and function of the digestive system. International Journal of Science Education, 22(5), 507–520.Google Scholar
  38. Metz, K. E. (2004). Children’s understanding of scientific inquiry: their conceptualization of uncertainty in investigations of their own design. Cognition and Instruction, 22(2), 219–290.Google Scholar
  39. Pellegrini, A. D. (Ed.). (2011). The Oxford handbook of the development of play. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Rothenberg, A. (1979). Einstein’s creative thinking and the general theory of relativity: a documented report. American Journal of Psychiatry, 136(1), 38–43.Google Scholar
  41. Sikder, S., & Fleer, M. (2014). Small science: infants and toddlers experiencing science in everyday family play. Research in Science Education, 45(3), 445–464. doi: 10.1007/s11165-014-9431-0.Google Scholar
  42. Siry, C. A., & Kremer, I. (2011). Children explain the rainbow: using young children’s ideas to guide science curricula. International Journal of Science Education and Technology, 20(5), 643–655.Google Scholar
  43. Trundle, K. C., & Saçkes, M. (2015). Research in early childhood science education. Dordrecht: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-94-017-9505-0.Google Scholar
  44. Tu, T. (2006). Preschool science environment: what is available in a preschool classroom? Early Childhood Education Journal, 33(4), 245–251.Google Scholar
  45. Venville, G. (2004). Young children learning about living things: a case study of conceptual change from ontological and social perspectives. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 41(5), 449–480.Google Scholar
  46. Vygotsky, L. S. (1966). Play and its role in the mental development of the child. Voprosy Psikhologii, 12(6), 62–76.Google Scholar
  47. Vygotsky, L. S. (1997). The history of the development of higher mental functions. In R. W. Rieber (Ed.), The collected works of L. S. Vygotsky (Vol. vol. 4). New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  48. Vygotsky, L. S. (2004). Imagination and creativity in childhood. Journal of Russian and East European Psychology, 42(1), 7–97.Google Scholar
  49. Vygotsky, L. S. (2005). Appendix: from the notes of L.S Vygotsky for lectures on the psychology of preschool children. Journal of Russian and East European Psychology, 43(1), 90–97.Google Scholar
  50. Zeidler, D. L. (2016). STEM education: a deficit framework for the twenty first century? A sociocultural socioscientific response. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 11(1), 11–26. doi: 10.1007/s11422-014-9578-z.Google Scholar
  51. Zhang, W., & Birdsall, S. (2016). Analysing early childhood educators’ science pedagogy through the lens of a pedagogical content knowing framework. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 41(2), 50–58.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Monash UniversityFrankstonAustralia

Personalised recommendations