ArticlePDF Available

How young people respond to learning spaces outside school: A sociocultural perspective



This article focuses on educational enterprises outside the formal sector, such as museums, botanical gardens and interactive science centres. International research is drawn on to illuminate how design, culture, educational strategies and settings combine to affect the way in which young people respond to experiences on offer, leading to analysis of the impact of such settings in promoting learning, and the likely implications for those who staff such venues. Aikenhead’s concept of the educator as ‘culture broker’ is developed to suggest ways in which learning might be best supported. It envisages a shift from ‘delivery’ strategies targeted at large groups towards approaches which focus on what learners choose to know about using dialogue between children and ‘known and trusted people’. Analysis of observed responses in various settings is undertaken from a sociocultural perspective using the notion of communities of practice. Implications for the roles of education managers and their staff in further research are developed. KeywordsCommunities of practice–Learning professionals–Museums–Non-school environments–Science learning centres–Young learners
How young people respond to learning spaces outside
school: A sociocultural perspective
Alan Peacock Nick Pratt
Received: 14 September 2008 / Accepted: 2 February 2009 / Published online: 9 March 2011
Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011
Abstract This article focuses on educational enterprises outside the formal sector, such
as museums, botanical gardens and interactive science centres. International research is
drawn on to illuminate how design, culture, educational strategies and settings combine to
affect the way in which young people respond to experiences on offer, leading to analysis
of the impact of such settings in promoting learning, and the likely implications for those
who staff such venues. Aikenhead’s concept of the educator as ‘culture broker’ is devel-
oped to suggest ways in which learning might be best supported. It envisages a shift from
‘delivery’ strategies targeted at large groups towards approaches which focus on what
learners choose to know about using dialogue between children and ‘known and trusted
people’. Analysis of observed responses in various settings is undertaken from a socio-
cultural perspective using the notion of communities of practice. Implications for the roles
of education managers and their staff in further research are developed.
Keywords Communities of practice Learning professionals Museums
Non-school environments Science learning centres Young learners
Emergence of new forms of educational enterprise
In 1853, the Crystal Palace, originally built for London’s Great Exhibition of 1851, was
reconstructed in a park in Sydenham, South London, the centrepiece of which was a
display of life-size concrete dinosaurs. The site, which according to Bryson (2003) was
‘probably the first-ever theme park’, opened with a grand dinner for 21 eminent scientists
in the still-unfinished ‘Giant Iguanodon’. Guests included the palaeontologist Richard
A. Peacock (&)
Graduate School of Education, University of Exeter, 29 Thornton Hill, Exeter EX4 4NN, Devon, UK
N. Pratt
Faculty of Education, University of Plymouth, Floor 4, Rolle Building, Drake Circus,
Plymouth PL4 8AA, Devon, UK
Learning Environ Res (2011) 14:11–24
DOI 10.1007/s10984-011-9081-3
Owen, who was subsequently the prime-mover in the establishment of London’s Natural
History Museum. Since then, other such museums, botanical gardens, zoological gardens,
galleries, sculpture parks, national parks, nature reserves and theme parks have been
established worldwide. One hundred and fifty years ago their function was perceived as
almost exclusively for research by the privileged few. Owen, for example, was considered
very radical in wanting to label exhibits in the Natural History Museum so that visitors
could be better informed about what they were looking at.
The educational function of such enterprises and sites has developed gradually over the
years, and more rapidly in the past two decades. At the same time, a new generation of
similar enterprises (interactive science centres, heritage sites, environmental/eco-centres,
etc.) has developed, often, in the UK at least, with the support of funding from charities and
from the national lottery. Examples of such educational establishments can be found
worldwide (see*mwm/sci.html).
The explicitly educational function which such sites in the UK now share is apparent
in their appointment of education managers, schools’ liaison officers, communication
assistants, explainers, guides, wardens, rangers, etc., many of whom have a background in
education, as ex-teachers or trained teachers. For simplicity, these will be referred to here
as Learning Professionals (LPs). The facilities are mostly hands-on, in the sense that they
encourage visitor interaction with artefacts and exhibits, and actively encourage visits by
school parties as well as by individuals, families and the general public. They have clear
objectives, and usually link their provision explicitly to the curricula of formal education,
particularly at the primary (5–11 years) and secondary (11–16 years) stages. This often
involves extensive websites with materials and activities to download, as well as curric-
ulum-linked guided (and virtual) tours and workshops. Some have sought to improve the
effectiveness of their educational provision through evaluation of their programs (e.g.
Peacock and Bowker 2001; Rahm 2003; Tunnicliffe 2000). In recent years, some initial
teacher training institutions in the UK have begun to incorporate experience at such
enterprises into their training programs (Peacock and Bowker 2004).
Up to now, we have had to refer to these facilities as ‘enterprises’ because there is no
accepted terminology that encompasses the range of resources on offer. Some (e.g. wildlife
trusts) do not necessarily have sites as such; others (such as the National Trust, through its
Guardianship scheme) operate across many varied kinds of managed sites, from unin-
habited islands to stately homes; some are an integral part of public utilities (such as the
visitor centres at nuclear power stations or landfill/recycling sites); others operate outreach
education programs as well as on-site facilities. Most importantly, however, their educa-
tional function rarely fits into the conventional classification of education as either Formal,
Non-formal or Informal.
Defining ‘learning spaces’
For the purposes of this article, all forms of non-school settings, including botanical
gardens, environmental centres, nature reserves, museums, science centres, exploratoria,
etc., are referred to as Learning Spaces. Whereas it is common in the literature to see the
term learning ‘environment’, we have used ‘space’ in order to indicate, indeed highlight,
the very diverse nature of possible out-of-school spaces for learning, as outlined above.
‘Environment’ tends to suggest the idea of natural space, often involving living flora and/or
fauna and, although this article includes such spaces, it does not refer to them exclusively.
Where we use the word environment below, it is in this sense of ‘living environment’
12 Learning Environ Res (2011) 14:11–24
specifically, particularly as it refers to environmental education (i.e. deliberate learning
about natural phenomena and their care/preservation).
As a growth area in recent years, learning spaces have been given a high profile in
raising public awareness of environmental, social and cultural issues. Yet the way in which
they are perceived and their effectiveness at communicating their messages to children in
particular have not been studied extensively, with the possible exception of museums. This
could be a consequence of the widespread assumption that such lavishly-resourced and
exciting places are self-evidently good for learning. In fact, our observations (Peacock and
Bowker 2001) indicate that exciting buildings and structures can often distract from a focus
on the explicit learning objectives.
Our studies of Learning Spaces in the UK indicate that, typically, children visit such
centres either in small groups with parents or in large school groups, which might break up
into smaller groups. In school groups, the adult:child ratio is typically between 1:4 and 1:6,
though there are usually several non-teachers to every teacher. With parents, the adult:child
ratio is more typically 1:2. Time spent in ‘hands-on’ activity varies, but a school group is
likely to spend 1–1.5 h in structured activity and a further 1 h in less structured work
(Peacock and Bowker 2001). The roles of LPs can range from running structured work-
shops with classes of children to simply ‘meeting and greeting’ groups of people who carry
out teacher-led activities. Visiting teachers and other adult helpers perceive their roles in
varied and different ways, from management of behaviour to mediation of cognitive
messages (Brown et al. 1997). The physical layout or setting also varies enormously, in
terms of size, location of buildings, plants and other artefacts, pathways, spaces in which
children operate, and the ambience. Structured trails with pre-determined routes and
stations can co-exist with randomly-arranged layouts of interactive exhibits.
The above studies, as well as the international research literature reviewed below,
suggest several possible reasons why it might be quite difficult, particularly for young
people, to learn the specific outcomes identified as objectives in such contexts:
the structure and design of layouts and buildings which can often distract learners from
focusing on explicit learning objectives
learners’ culturally-influenced perceptions of environment, history, etc. and the
perceived significance of artefacts within these contexts (e.g. the idea that ‘plants are
the affordances and constraints of physical arrangements, social groupings, accessi-
bility and localised distractions—what we have termed ‘micro-contexts’
tensions between conflicting goals of LPs and between different approaches to learning
in such contexts.
In what follows, we discuss points 1 and 2 only briefly before turning in more detail to the
third and fourth issues which form the main focus of this article. In order to do so, we first
introduce a sociocultural perspective, based on Wenger (1998), as a theoretical framework
for our analysis.
Structure, design and layout
Structures can dominate perception. For example, at the Eden Project in Cornwall, UK,
giant twin domes built into a cliff face housing a tropical forest and a Mediterranean
environment are so eye-catching and dominant that they can make the plants inside them,
never mind the living outdoor environment, seem unimportant. The term ‘Biome’, for
Learning Environ Res (2011) 14:11–24 13
instance, widely used there, is taken by most children and teachers to refer to the buildings,
not the plant collections inside. When children were asked for their most significant
memory some weeks after their visit, the most commonly-mentioned memory was of the
tractor that hauled the ‘land train’ that took them down into the biomes.
At Carymoor Environmental Centre, which teaches young people about recycling and
waste minimisation and is based at a capped landfill site and recycles methane, leachate,
green waste composting, glass, plastic and metal, the sights, sounds and smells of the
adjacent active landfill site dominate their memories (Vrdlovcova 2005).
The organisation and layout of spaces can also influence time-on-task and therefore the
way children focus. For example, if the entrance, spaces to be used, toilets and lunch
spaces are widely separated, long periods of ‘dead time’ can elapse in order for groups to
move from one space to another during their day. At one venue, almost half the school’s
time at the centre was lost in this way.
Cultural interpretations of ideas associated with environment
It is possible to distinguish different ways in which people conceive ideas such as ‘nature’
as either an external objective reality or as an internal psychological or even philosophical
entity (Kawasaki 1990; Lynch 1996). Environmental knowledge can be seen either as
objective facts or as a process of subjective coming-to-knowing (Cobern and Loving 1998;
Kawagley et al. 1998; Peacock 2000; Peat 1994). Young people can respond to their
environment in very different ways, ranging from strong identification, to ambivalence and
to rejection (Titman 1994). Even though ideas about what is living and what is not differ
from culture to culture (Clarfield 1987), it is also possible and not exceptional for con-
flicting explanations of phenomena to co-exist and be used as appropriate by individuals
(Jegede 1995). Thus managed environments which aim to communicate about plants,
landscape, fossils or physical processes, for example, must have a clear idea about their
‘message’ and the potential for differing interpretations amongst visitors from a range of
sociocultural backgrounds.
The analysis to date has dealt essentially with physical factors relating to learning
spaces. However, more significant issues arise from the inter-relationships between people
and the way in which these are structured by issues such as goals and expectations. In
analysing these issues, we turn to a sociocultural perspective based on ‘communities of
practice’ (Lave and Wenger 1991; Wenger 1998) which we first outline in brief.
Communities of practice as a theoretical frame
Lave and Wenger’s theorisation of learning as increasingly central participation in the
practices of a community is wide ranging and has been extensively discussed and extended in
the literature (e.g. Fuller et al. 2005; Hodkinson and Hodkinson 2004). Here, we make use of
the idea that any identifiable community operates within a set of practices that have norms
and goals (all of which can be either explicit or implicit). Within this triumvirate, participants
are involved in identification both with certain practices and as certain kinds of people. In
previous work (Back and Pratt 2007; Pratt and Kelly 2007), we have suggested that the notion
of a community can be usefully employed in understanding a particular situation, rather than
essentialising it as an entity. That is, we can view situations in terms of communities, rather
than asking if they actually represent a community and, if so, what sort. Furthermore,
14 Learning Environ Res (2011) 14:11–24
situations can be understood in terms of more than one community at any one time—as
hybrid communities (Pratt and Kelly 2007)—asking what features of each community are
represented by the practices of the participants. In this sense, the analysis works backwards,
overlaying what we know about familiar communities (such as classrooms) on novel situ-
ations (such as being in a new space) to illuminate the meaning of people’s behaviour.
From this perspective, one can dispense with the rather problematic idea of formal/
informal/non-formal learning strategies and, instead, focus on how a situation, and the
people within it, can be understood in terms of the way in which they behave in relation to
particular kinds of communities. Learning spaces can then be seen as places in which
different communities come into contact, leading to the question of what kinds of com-
munities are inevitable and/or desirable in that setting. Read this way, learning spaces
inevitably involve school communities, not just in the sense that groups of school people
enter them, but in the sense that these people bring with them the practices, norms and
goals of schooling with which they identify.
On the other hand, learning professionals aim to create a different kind of community
within their learning spaces. Because the aim is to maximise learning in relation to the
particular focus of the space—environmentalism, waste minimisation, physics principles,
ecology or whatever—then it stands to reason that such a community should aim to
replicate, at least in part, the practices associated with the discipline involved: what we call
a ‘disciplined community’. Put simply, learning (say) science means behaving as a com-
munity of scientists. It is worth noting here that from the sociocultural perspective,
adopting the practices of a disciplined community is not simply a matter of trying to
empathise with professionals in that field. Rather, the practices through which learners
come to know the discipline qualitatively affect the nature of their knowing; that is, their
knowledge is structured differently (Boaler 2002), often with greater depth in the sense that
connections, patterns and implications are clearer.
Having briefly outlined some of the key aspects of a community of practice (CoP)
model, the following analysis makes use of this framework in analysing issues of personal
relationships, goals, expectations and outcomes in differing settings.
Tension between conflicting goals
Most learning spaces are expensive to create, maintain and market to the public. In many
countries, there is an expectation that such facilities as museums, nature reserves and
botanical gardens, often publicly-funded, should be open to the general public at no cost.
Yet, in the UK, many are privately funded and need to generate income to be sustainable.
In turn, this means maximising visitor numbers (particularly school groups) and devel-
oping strategies for merchandising, which are often at odds with educational goals.
Research represents this as a conflict between education and entertainment, or between
affective and cognitive goals (Lucas 1991; Rennie and McClafferty 1996; Stevenson 1991;
Wellington 1989). Marketing the commercial aspects to visitors often curtails the time and
attention available for interacting and learning (Peacock and Bowker 2001) by providing
powerful distractions in the form of kiosks, restaurants, shops and other novel yet non-
educational experiences. These are distractions not only in the sense of reducing ‘time on
task’, but also in terms of any attempt to temporarily suspend the school and everyday
communities in favour of the disciplined community of the learning space. Typically,
relatively small numbers of LPs are employed to deal with school groups, in comparison
with numbers employed in other roles. The educational experience provided can thus
Learning Environ Res (2011) 14:11–24 15
become transformed into a ‘day out’ in the minds of visiting groups; and the media often
reinforce this by their insistence on referring to all such work out of school as ‘trips’.
Schools themselves find that they have to visit in large numbers by coach for logistical
reasons, also reinforcing the ‘trip mentality’, making it harder to adopt practices related to
work in the relevant discipline.
Impact of the setting: Micro-contexts, interpretation and signage
The way in which visitors interact has been shown to be influenced by complex contextual
factors such as: the deliberate physical arrangement of structures, plants, pathways and
artefacts; the nature of the focal objects and artefacts themselves; the social configurations of
groups visiting; the actual and potential discourse practices; and any task structures offered
(Brown et al. 1997; Dierking and Falk 1994; Hindmarsh et al. 2005; Rahm 2003). All of these
play a part in supporting learners to adopt the working practices of a ‘disciplined’ participant.
Some more specific studies (Roth 1996; Roth et al. 1999) indicate that social configurations
(such as group size, composition and location) are strongly influenced by the layout and
nature of the objects of interest (plants, installations, touch screens, sculptures, etc.). In turn,
social configurations influence the nature of discourse, the roles that individuals play and
the extent to which individuals contribute (Marton 1993; Roth et al. 1999). The presence
or absence of LPs, teachers or experts in a group can strongly influence the nature of
children’s dialogue (Maybin 1993). Social speech in the setting of a learning space is likely
also to include signs, gestures and visual representations related to what is being observed
(Goodwin 1986).
For example, at a Marine Visitor Centre which offers a centre exhibition along with
rock pooling activities, our own evaluative observations indicated that, when families
arrived in the centre when no LP was present, mothers tended to watch the video loop with
their younger children, boys gravitated to the touch screen game, and fathers, unac-
countably, to the leaflets describing other local attractions. Also individuals interact dif-
ferently with an installation depending on whether or not it is already being used. At
unattended installations, visitors tend immediately to go ‘hands on’ without reading
instructions. But, if it is already in use, visitors pass the time reading instructions so that
they are better informed when their turn comes (Hindmarsh et al. 2005).
A second example involves the two biomes (humid tropic and Mediterranean) at the
Eden Project. In the former, there is a set route with a narrow path that can be very
congested, thus preventing groups of any size from stopping to carry out an activity and
making discussion difficult because of the background noise from the waterfall. Because
none of these constraints exist in the other biome, completely different approaches and
activities, such as the use of storytellers, are possible. Our extensive observations at this
venue indicate that the nature of discourse is very different in the two adjacent settings,
even though the personnel may be the same (Peacock and Bowker 2001).
The physical resources also can differ in the way in which they provide opportunities for
interaction. For example, the extent to which plants can be touched and manipulated can be
very different from the way in which machines and other technological installations are
used. Resources thus can be seen in terms of their use as mediational tools and the extent to
which they facilitate and support learning conversations (Lemke 1998). In small widely-
dispersed school groups, interaction can often be dependent on ‘reading’ some form of
instruction in verbal, visual or symbolic form. In the absence of an LP as part of the micro-
context of a focal area, our own observations in a number of differing physical and
16 Learning Environ Res (2011) 14:11–24
biological contexts indicate that children visiting as part of a school group rarely read the
relevant information (perhaps because the ‘classroom’ norm is to read only when asked?),
or that they often do not understand or follow textual or symbolic instructions when they
do read them (Peacock and Gates 2000). However, when visiting in family groups, younger
children read signage aloud without prompting. In doing so, they are frequently observed
to make mistakes (e.g. reading ‘palm’ as ‘plum’), suggesting that they might not always
understand what the signage indicates. Our follow-up research in schools (Peacock and
Bowker 2001), using stimulated recall through photographs of signage, has confirmed this.
Task structures—or the way in which LPs interpret their learning objectives from within
their disciplined CoP—depend on many of the above factors, as well as on the time
available. They also might be tightly- or loosely-structured, depending on the needs and
preferences of visiting groups; in turn, an imposed task structure determines the social
configurations and physical locations utilised. In practice, task structures are often modified
and re-interpreted in situ by adults and children alike (Peacock and Bowker 2001). Chil-
dren visiting with schools, however, might have a pre-set agenda and itinerary, often
determined by teachers and reflecting the way in which the practices of school or class-
room communities are organised. However, parents with children typically do not follow
structured learning pathways, but tend to respond to children’s interests and explore ser-
endipitously (Peacock 2004). Thus the setting, or micro-context, can have a major impact
on interpretation and how young people actually perceive the learning space. However, this
impact is always subject to the overarching practices, goals and norms that different
communities bring to the space and which ultimately dictate the way in which any setting
is interpreted. This has to be taken into account in planning any program for young people.
A good example was observed when a group of 16 10-year-old boys from a primary
school were taken rock-pooling, not by a teacher but by the National Trust warden (a
parent and governor of the school) for the coastal region in which the school was located
(Peacock 2006). Three boys came without their Wellington boots and assumed that (had
‘school’ practices prevailed) they would not therefore be allowed into the water. However,
because the day was fine and sunny, the warden was quite happy to allow them in wearing
their trainers. As a consequence, these three students, who might otherwise have become
isolated, bored and disruptive, were deeply engrossed in catching and doing beautifully-
detailed observational drawing of shrimps, anemones and other marine life.
Many enterprises have already evolved a variety of ways in which their space can best
be used by school groups. Most have produced materials, tasks, trails, workshops, websites
and worksheets in one form or another that can be directed either by their own LPs,
teachers, parents or children themselves. Materials can be accessible through the web in
advance of visits. Such task structures have implications for on-site artefacts to be used and
can have significant impact on the nature of the discourse that ensues. Crucially, because it
is likely to be the way in which they alter the community perspective of the group that
matters most, no artefact is useful or not per se. For example, a task devised with one CoP
in mind might be difficult to operate from the perspective of another CoP, leading to
tension between alternative approaches.
Tensions between different approaches to learning in non-school settings
Studies in various cultures have focused on non-formal learning strategies utilised by
indigenous peoples and the tensions created for them when working in structured learning
spaces (Cobern 1993; Ezeife 2001; Githinji 1992; Lynch 1996; Ogawa 1995; Rennie and
Learning Environ Res (2011) 14:11–24 17
McClafferty 1996; Snively and Corsiglia 1998; Vare 1998). This tension has been
summarised by Griffin and Symington (1997) as being between task-oriented and learner-
oriented strategies. They show that teacher-led groups often adopt classroom-style, task-
oriented approaches which focus pupils on the practices of schooling and are ineffective in
supporting ways of knowing that are useful beyond the classroom. (For example, at the Eden
Project, we have observed school groups arriving and experiencing the ‘wow!’ of seeing it
for the first time, and then being given a worksheet within five minutes and asking their
teacher, ‘‘Miss, how do I spell ‘humid tropic’?’’.) Griffin and Symington (1997) thus
advocate a framework for learner-oriented strategies based on natural learning behaviours,
which they identify as being typically exhibited by family groups during visits to the same
venues. Specifically, they argue for learner-initiated questioning and enquiry, informal
structures, holistic rather than detailed foci, adaptability and the importance of social
interaction. They note that these approaches are typically exhibited by family groups and,
importantly, represent the kinds of practices that are typical of professionals working in the
same field. Thus, whilst they might lead to ‘knowing more’ information, they also lead to a
form of knowledge that is associated with central participation in the community of scien-
tists/environmentalists. The value of undifferentiated, structured worksheets, which tend to
dominate teacher-led strategies, is seriously questioned by the above authors. Amongst other
things, they position children as school pupils with the associated goals that this entails, often
around accuracy and completion, and thus seriously narrowing their focus to only those
boxes that the worksheet requires them to fill in or tick. Hence, like Griffin and Symington,
our own studies confirm that much of the learning space is neither seen nor responded to.
Other studies (e.g. Dierking and Falk 1994) reinforce the effectiveness of family-group
behaviour in such settings as museums, as well as the value of pre-visit preparation
(Gennaro 1981; Symington et al. 1986). Vare (1998) has noted that school groups tend to
focus on strategies which rely heavily on delivery and dissemination of predetermined
ideas, and that such approaches make children feel disempowered. His research indicates
that, in non-school settings, most children perceive that they learn best through their own
observations or through 1:1 learning. He therefore argues that effective learning in these
contexts happens when: a child is enabled to identify things that are both do-able and worth
doing, which can lead to positive action; a child has an element of control through ‘fil-
tering’ perceptions of what is appropriate; and through making use of known and trusted
people who have expertise, in this case, the LPs.
Our own interviews with children after their visits indicate that an important determi-
nant of what they learn during engagement with artefacts is the way of knowing that they
bring with them, often from their home rather than from previous experience in school
(Peacock and Bowker 2001). For example, children who were familiar with and had used
maps with parents were able to orientate themselves through a map of the different climatic
zones in the biomes. Many pupils, however, clearly had no previous experience of using
maps to find where countries were located. With school groups, most children did not even
notice maps, despite their large size and key location (e.g. a 3 m 92 m map of the world’s
Mediterranean regions that is prominently displayed in the entrance to the Mediterranean
biome at the Eden Project).
Implications of research findings
Because learning spaces and their use by children can vary in many ways, it can be
hypothesised that some configurations are more likely to lead to forms of learning that are
18 Learning Environ Res (2011) 14:11–24
aligned with the practices of the associated discipline (rather than with the practices of
schooling) than others, and that these configurations might be context-dependent. The
above review has been based on our own studies in a variety of contexts, our meta-analysis
of other evaluations from a wide range of social, cultural and educational contexts across
many countries, and takes cognisance of earlier meta-analyses (e.g. Rickinson et al. 2004).
The outcomes suggest that there are many potential influences on learning, some of which
are not apparent in classrooms. For example, the size, content and layout of learning spaces
allow kinds of interaction (between teacher–child–object) to take place that the physical
constraints of a classroom and its resources do not allow. They also allow children
potentially to interact with a wider range of adults.
Teachers and children are accustomed to working in classrooms but, in a typical
learning space where the scope for interaction is far larger, children still might be con-
strained into spaces similar to classrooms for part of the time. Small spaces can constrain
movement, whilst a very large space can prevent children from finding other people and
things with which they want to engage. Predetermined routes can affect children’s ability
to remain at or return to a specific location. Yet movement can be closely linked to the
perceived norms and expectations of teachers, LPs, other adults and other children.
Although these subtle tensions are not always apparent, some teachers attempt to
impose the practices, norms goals and identities of their classrooms on out-of-school
settings. Cogent reasons for this include Headteacher and parent expectations, notions of
what constitutes school-work, curriculum pressures and concerns about effective man-
agement and control of children’s time and behaviour. Learning professionals, often
themselves ex-teachers, are very aware of these pressures and constraints. At the same
time, they are aware that their objectives can be quite different and that they are
empowered to work in ways that teachers cannot. National Trust wardens and rangers, for
example, are preferred by children when working outdoors because they know more than
teachers and allow different ways of working. Although these LPs themselves are aware
that they can learn from teachers (e.g. how to manage large groups or to communicate with
a wide age range), they do not want to ‘become teachers’ as their priorities are different
(Peacock 2006). In this sense, the adults involved must tread a narrow path between the
two different communities of school and learning space. Wittingly or unwittingly, they
become the ‘culture brokers’ who can negotiate crossings between the school community
and that of the learning space.
On the other hand, parents are hardly constrained by curricular considerations and they
can use their day in any way in which they or their children think fit, focusing broadly or
narrowly and choosing what they wish to emphasise or enjoy. Therefore, there is poten-
tially a wide range of ways in which children’s learning can be managed by adults, as
exemplified in the study of family conversations at the Eden Project (Peacock 2004).
Implications for LPs: The role of ‘culture broker’
The transitions between the life-world of the learner outside school, inside school and the
sub-culture of any specific learning space involve the crossing of boundaries between
different communities. Whereas Aikenhead (1996) uses the term ‘cultural border-crossing’
to conceptualise the transition, Wenger (1998) talks about boundary crossing. Whatever the
term, it describes the idea that the worlds are culturally different in terms of their values,
goals, language, personnel, resources encountered and location. The extent to which the
particular discourses of each community are recognisable will vary according to learners’
Learning Environ Res (2011) 14:11–24 19
personal circumstances, as well as to their school’s approach to learning. In a school
context, teachers have to help learners to negotiate the transition from one community to
the other, which many learners (and some teachers) find difficult because of the very varied
approaches to ways of knowing in each one.
Any structured learning space that is managed by LPs, whether it is a museum or a stretch
of coastline managed by the National Trust, incorporates an explicit ‘curriculum’ of ideas
and objectives relevant to visitors in general and to school learners in particular. This
curriculum can be decided by curators, managers, LPs or a range of staff working together.
This curriculum is not only a catalogue of key ideas, but also an implicit set of practices,
norms and goals—ways of being and knowing—which reflect the discipline(s) inherently at
work in the space. To help learners to make sense of a coastline, for example, a National
Trust warden does not just need to know things; he or she also brings particular dispositions
and ways of seeing and knowing that have been learned through the experience of being a
Warden, and which allow him or her to know what is significant and what is not. Crucially,
this way of knowing affects not only what becomes known, but also the form of such
When a school group visits, it has its own objectives related to the school’s curriculum
and to its own inherent set of school practices. The two are mediated in practice by input
from both the teacher and the LP. During a single visit, this can mean engaging with a
limited number of ideas and in a limited way by the practices of the disciplines(s). A family
group visiting also can have its own objectives, mediated largely by parents but, to some
extent, also by stewards, wardens or other staff who might see it as their role to answer
questions raised by visitors and thus fill gaps in their knowledge. However, our studies
suggest that, in most cases, there is currently little overlap between the goals of LPs who
manage the ‘border-crossing’ and those of visiting groups. Where there is overlap (i.e.
common goals and working methods), these have arisen from professional partnerships
deliberately set up as part of an ongoing link between school staff and LPs. The benefits of
such partnerships are very clear, especially in relation to children’s perceptions of the
learning space. For example, we observed that, whilst most children do not read signage
when in school groups, children whose teachers prepare them for their visits by showing
examples of the signage that they are likely to see will notice and read signs.
This makes clear that the role of LPs crucially involves acting as ‘broker’ between
different stakeholders and becomes much more central, because they should have a grasp
not only of the full range of implications of differing communities (goals, norms and
practices), but also of the expectations and priorities of visitors and of evaluation evidence
relating to children’s learning. Moreover, it is the LPs who are best placed to model these
practices and forms of identification as they relate to the disciplined community of the
learning space. At the same time, however, they must work within the discourse of the
school community too in a careful balancing act—a highly demanding task in which
the expectations of each community might well be incommensurate at times. On top of all
this, they also have to effectively mediate with their own colleagues and management in
order to ensure that everyone is ‘on side’. One tangible benefit of this has been the
emergence of joint planning between school staff and LPs in re-working programs that are
considered appropriate to both communities (Peacock 2006).
In this sense, LPs are most effective when they actively assist learners to move back and
forth as appropriate between the communities of school culture, home culture and the sub-
culture of the learning space itself. They will be aware of, and hence able to help learners
deal with, the sociocultural conflicts that might arise during their attempts at learning in the
complex spaces which they present. At the Eden Project, this involves focusing attention
20 Learning Environ Res (2011) 14:11–24
on: visible plants and their uses as food, clothing, shelter and pharmaceuticals; the sym-
biotic relationship between plants and people; the importance of world trade in plants and
its impact on development; and the ‘can do’ attitudes which develop their ‘action com-
petence’ (Jensen and Schnack 1997) in relation to big issues such as sustainability. Such
foci necessitate carefully-constructed tasks that require pupils, as part of the task itself, to
adopt the practices and goals of a disciplined community so that they not only identify with
some of the key ideas, but also with themselves as botanists/ecologists, etc.
One example of a learning space that attempts such an approach is Dig, an archaeo-
logical museum in York ( where visitors (whether as school parties or
the general public) work in groups to investigate replica archaeological digs in the city. On
arriving, groups are taken into the ‘archaeologist’s hut’ where an LP prompts them to
consider the different ways in which archaeologists work, before arming them each with a
trowel. Then, the group moves through to three replica dig sites where original artefacts are
buried in ‘mud’ (actually rubber pellets) and must be dug up. Finally the group moves to an
area where original artefacts such as bones and flints are offered for examination with the
challenge of making deductions about, and from, them. Completing these activities gives
visitors not just ideas and information about York in previous centuries, but also a real
sense of what archaeology is all about and how it takes place. Likewise, Centre of the Cell
( is an innovative educational site located within the Institute of
Cell and Molecular Science in Whitechapel, London, allowing children from schools to
work alongside professional scientists while addressing key medical and ethical concerns
(Balkwill et al. 2008). Children are able to use professional microscopes, for example, to
compare cells and tissues, to grow cells on a ‘virtual lab bench’, and to discuss the ethics of
stem cell research with professional scientists.
Implications for further evaluation and research
Research needs to focus on the kinds of interactions and learning strategies that are found
to be most effective in different contexts, as well as the roles of LPs within different kinds
of learner groupings, in order to compare their effectiveness at prompting learning in
different contexts. This implies two points for action.
The first is to make sense of the term ‘effective’, because what is effective for any
classroom might not be effective in terms of the discipline(s) associated with the learning
space. Taking a group of pupils to a marshland some years ago, we helped them to become
effective at noticing marshland plants and learning to sample these systematically. This
seemed less ‘effective’ a few weeks later when the standardised test in science required
them to identify marshland plants but gave no marks for dandelions—presumably being
‘grassland’ plants—even though the pupils had observed them in abundance on the marsh!
The second point is to investigate the perceived roles and priorities of LPs in order to
establish what affordances and constraints they experience in their work and to be able to
support them better in treading the narrow lines between communities.
It is also important to find out what children actually see and don’t see in different
contexts and micro-contexts and how their knowledge is constructed from this. For
example, at one interactive science centre, we found that children rarely read the
instructions that make interactive installations work. Therefore, in trying to operate them,
children often concluded that an installation was ‘broken’. Moreover, there is a need to
investigate how changes in forms and expectations of participation—for example, as a
consequence of national initiatives such as Learning Outside the Classroom (Department
Learning Environ Res (2011) 14:11–24 21
for Children, Schools and Families 2008) which is part of the Creative Partnerships con-
sortium—affect these ways of seeing.
Finally, there has been a rapid growth in recent years in developing and using strategies
for capitalising on children’s use of mobile technology as a means of communicating and
managing visitors within interactive science centres (Kahr-Høyland 2005); these strategies
could be fruitfully explored in relation to other kinds of learning spaces.
Aikenhead, G. (1996). Science education: Border crossing into the subculture of science. Studies in Science
Education, 27, 1–52.
Back, J., & Pratt, N. (2007, September). Spaces to discuss mathematics: Communities of practice on an
online discussion board. Paper presented at the 2nd Socio-cultural Theory in Educational Research and
Practice Conference: Theory, Identity and Learning, Manchester University, UK. Available on line at
Balkwill, F., Chambers, C., & Lindsay, C. (2008). Centre of the cell: Bringing contemporary science into the
classroom. Primary Science, 104, 22–25.
Boaler, J. (2002). The development of disciplinary relationships: Knowledge, practice and identity in
mathematics classrooms. For the Learning of Mathematics, 22(1), 42–47.
Brown, C. A., Oliver, A., & Bazley, M. (1997). Making the most of school visits: Interactions between
school helpers and children in a hands-on science gallery. Journal of Education in Museums, 18,
Bryson, B. (2003). A short history of nearly everything. London: Doubleday.
Clarfield, G. (1987). The Rendille ethnosociology of persons and action. Nairobi, Kenya: Bureau of
Educational Research, Kenyatta University.
Cobern, W. W. (1993). Contextual constructivism: The impact of culture on the learning and teaching
of science. In K. Tobin (Ed.), The practice of constructivism in science education (pp. 51–70).
Washington, DC: AAA Press.
Cobern, W. W., & Loving, C. (1998, April). Defining ‘Science’ in a multicultural world: Implications for
science education. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Association for Research in
Science Teaching, San Diego, CA.
Department for Children, Schools and Families (former name of the UK Department of Education). (2008).
The ‘Learning outside the classroom’ Manifesto. Retrieved September 3, 2008, from http://www.
Dierking, L., & Falk, J. (1994). Family behaviour and learning in informal science settings: A review of
research. Science Education, 78(1), 57–72.
Ezeife, A. N. (2001). Integrating the learner’s schema, culture and environment into the science classroom:
Some cases involving traditional and aboriginal societies. Canadian and International Education,
30(1), 17–44.
Fuller, A., Hodkinson, H., Hodkinson, P., & Unwin, L. (2005). Learning as peripheral participation in
communities of practice: A reassessment of key concepts in workplace learning. British Educational
Research Journal, 31(1), 49–68.
Gennaro, E. D. (1981). The effectiveness of using pre-visit instructional materials on learning for a museum
field trip experience. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 18(3), 275–279.
Githinji, S. (1992). Using the environment for science teaching: A teacher’s view from Kenya. Perspectives,
45, 105–123.
Goodwin, C. (1986). Gestures as a resource for the organisation of mutual orientation. Semiotica, 62, 29–49.
Griffin, J., & Symington, D. (1997). Moving from task-oriented to learning-oriented strategies on school
excursions to museums. Science Education, 81, 763–779.
Hindmarsh, J., Heath, C., vom Lehn, D., & Cleverly, J. (2005). Creating assemblies in public environments:
Social interaction, interactive exhibits and CSCW. Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 14(1),
Hodkinson, P., & Hodkinson, H. (2004). The significance of individuals’ dispositions in workplace learning:
A case study of two teachers. Journal of Education and Work, 17(2), 167–182.
Jegede, O. J. (1995). Collateral learning and the eco-cultural paradigm in science and mathematics education
in Africa. Studies in Science Education, 25, 97–137.
22 Learning Environ Res (2011) 14:11–24
Jensen, B., & Schnack, K. (1997). The action competence approach in environmental education.
Environmental Education Research, 3(2), 163–178.
Kahr-Høyland, A. (2005, October). Media, ICT and learningThe personal exhibition as an educational
tool in a semi-formal learning setting. Paper presented at the IARTEM Conference, Caen, France.
Kawagley, A. O., Norris-Tull, D., & Norris-Tull, R. A. (1998). The indigenous world-view of Yupiaq
culture: Its scientific nature and relevance to the practice and teaching of science. Journal of Research
in Science Teaching, 35(2), 133–144.
Kawasaki, K. (1990). A hidden conflict between western and traditional concepts of nature in science
education in Japan. Bulletin of the School of Education, 83, 203–214.
Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, UK:
Cambridge University Press.
Lemke, J. L. (1998). Multiplying meaning: Visual and verbal semiotics in scientific text. In J. R. Martin &
R. Veel (Eds.), Reading science (pp. 87–113). London: Routledge.
Lucas, A. M. (1991). ‘‘Info-tainment’’ and informal sources for learning in science. International Journal of
Science Education, 13(5), 495–504.
Lynch, P. P. (1996). Students’ alternative frameworks: Linguistic and cultural interpretations based on a
study of a western-tribal continuum. International Journal of Science Education, 18(3), 321–332.
Marton, F. (1993). Our experience of the physical world. Cognition and Instruction, 10, 105–125.
Maybin, J. (1993). Children’s informal talk and the construction of meaning. English in Education, 25(2),
Ogawa, M. (1995). Science education in a multicultural perspective. Science Education, 79(5), 583–593.
Peacock, A. (2000). What education do you miss by going to school? Children’s ‘coming-to-knowing’ about
science and their environment. Interchange, 31(2/3), 197–210.
Peacock, A. (2004). Talking about plants and people: Analysing children’s conversations with their parents.
Primary Science Review, 84, 10–13.
Peacock, A. (2006). Changing minds: The lasting impact of school trips. A study of the long-term impact of
sustained relationships between schools and the National Trust via the Guardianship scheme. Swin-
don, UK: The National Trust.
Peacock, A., & Bowker, R. (2001). Thinking of Eden: Developing children’s thinking about sustainability at
the Eden Project. Teaching Thinking, 5, 22–24.
Peacock, A., & Bowker, R. (2004). Learning to teach ‘science’ out of school: Non-school placements as part
of a Primary PGCE Programme. Education and Training, 46(1), 24–32.
Peacock, A., & Gates, S. (2000). Newly-qualified teachers’ perceptions of the role of text material in
teaching science. Research in Science and Technology Education, 18(2), 155–171.
Peat, F. D. (1994). Blackfoot physics. London: Fourth Estate.
Pratt, N., & Kelly, P. (2007). Mapping mathematical communities: Classrooms, research communities and
master-classes. For the Learning of Mathematics, 27(2), 34–39.
Rahm, J. (2003). Multiple modes of meaning-making in a science center. Science Education, 88, 223–247.
Rennie, L. J., & McClafferty, T. P. (1996). Science centres and science learning. Studies in Science
Education, 27, 53–98.
Rickinson, M., Dillon, J., Teamey, K., Morris, M., Choi, M. Y., Sanders, D., et al. (2004). A review of
research on outdoor learning. Shrewsbury, UK: National Foundation for Educational Research/King’s
College, London.
Roth, W.-M. (1996). Art and artefact of children’s designing: A situated cognition perspective. The Journal
of the Learning Sciences, 5, 129–166.
Roth, W.-M., McGinn, M. K., Woszczyna, C., & Boutonne
´, S. (1999). Differential participation during
science conversations: The interaction of focal artefacts, social configurations and physical arrange-
ments. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 8(3&4), 293–347.
Snively, G., & Corsiglia, J. (1998, April). Rediscovering indigenous science: Implications for science
education. Paper presented to the annual meeting of the National Association for Research in Science
Teaching, San Diego. CA.
Stevenson, J. (1991). The long-term impact of interactive exhibits. International Journal of Science Edu-
cation, 13(5), 521–531.
Symington, D., Boundy, K., Radford, T., & Taylor, R. (1986). Prior knowledge and primary pupils’
interaction with a museum display. Research in Science Education, 16, 55–62.
Titman, W. (1994). Special places, special people: The hidden curriculum of school grounds. Godalming,
UK: World Wide Fund for Nature.
Tunnicliffe, S. D. (2000). Conversations of family and primary school groups at robotic dinosaur exhibits in
a museum: What do they talk about? International Journal of Science Education, 22(7), 739–754.
Learning Environ Res (2011) 14:11–24 23
Vare, P. (1998, September). Schooling for transition: Whither or wither? A view from environmental
education. Paper presented at the Bristol Conference on International Education, Bristol, UK.
Vrdlovcova, J. (2005). Waking up to waste. Primary Science Review, 86, 8–11.
Wellington, J. (1989). Attitudes before understanding: The contribution of interactive centres to science
education. In M. Quin (Ed.), Sharing science: Issues in the development of interactive science and
technology centres (pp. 30–33). London: Nuffield Foundation.
Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge
University Press.
24 Learning Environ Res (2011) 14:11–24
... Particularly, this paper shows a research about one of those programs, which involved around 1900 elementary school students (5th to 9th grade levels, 10-15 years old), who participated in science activities. The Program used the theory of 'situated learning' (Waite & Pratt 2015) as a methodological tool to design educational practices based on the exchange of knowledge between students and science educators (Peacock & Pratt 2011). As a way to assess the Program, this study inquired around the teenagers' ideas about their personal relationship with science and technology. ...
... According to situated learning, when the subjects interact with their community, situations, problems and needs, they transform the meaning of knowledge by building an identity with respect to it (Peacock & Pratt 2011). Thus, social practice becomes the bridge through which subjects can appropriate knowledge, connecting it with its context and giving it meaning in the light of their practices. ...
... Besides that, observations showed that participants related scientific knowledge to their everyday lives in terms of its usefulness in solving problems. This kind of topics can be considered as learning spaces where it is possible to establish a dialogue between science and the real life of young people (Peacock & Pratt 2011) and where they can find sense to science by positioning themselves as subjects who can appropriate knowledge (Rahm 2008). Thus, could be said that the Program fostered productive interactions between youths and regarding knowledge, developing their agency (Clarke et al. 2016). ...
Full-text available
Science and technology museums have been adopting a science communication perspective that goes beyond the simple presentation of information. Through engagement, museums also facilitate the creation and exchange of political and cultural meanings, ideally among diverse social groups. The current study explores students’ views about the relationship between science and technology and everyday life. The research was carried out as part of the assessment of an after-school program led by a science museum and oriented by the situated learning theory. Over 1900 urban public-school students in 5th to 9th grades completed questionnaires and were observed in the activities. Analyses revealed that the students identified different practices associated with scientific work, which allowed them to explore how science works and how it could be related with their everyday life. Further, results suggested that non-formal educational environments could foster interest in science and technology by involving socio-cultural context.
... Researchers on field trips such as Rebar (2012) conclude that teachers seldom receive training in planning and conducting field trips even though the learning outcome of field trips are well documented (Anderson et al., 2006). Moreover, learning outside school in what Peacock and Pratt (2011) generally term 'learning spaces' can challenge young people (e.g. the structure and design of layouts and buildings can often distract learners from focusing on explicit learning objectives, and tensions between the conflicting goals of Learning Professionals 1 and between different approaches to learning in such contexts). ...
... Peacock and Pratt (2011) refers to Learning Professionals (or LP) when they speak of a common group of educators who young people meet outside school, including schools' liaison officers, communication assistants, explainers, guides, wardens, rangers, etc., many of whom have a background in education as exteachers or trained teachers.Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved. ...
Full-text available
Changes in learning environments are pivotal when schools and local organizations embark on educational partnerships. Local organisations offer specialized knowledge to schools and, as classes move out schools, the contribution of the physical setting is crucial and central to understand the didactical potential of learning outside school. Therefore, we explore how local organizations exploit their specific physical settings and the materials in situ for educational purposes and how they bridge the gap between their specialized knowledge and students’ general academic knowledge and prerequisites. Through our case study, we found that teaching outside school has the capacity for the exemplary in teaching, but this widely depends on educators’ didactics and their ability to relate learning content to the physical setting and materials in situ.
... The experiences discussed above lead to a Sense of Community, which is important for development and is integral to wellbeing (Pretty, Bishop, Fisher, & Sonn, 2006). Peacock and Pratt (2011) suggest that communities can be considered within their particular situation rather than representative of a whole ideal. In this study the evidence indicates that the strength of a Forest School community is also situational and lies in the practices, constructs and agreed upon norms created by participants. ...
Forest School provision is a growing phenomenon in the UK due to its perceived impact on participant learning and wellbeing. This study sought to understand the impact of Forest School provision on the social and emotional development of participants using practitioner's reflections. Semi-Structured interviews with six qualified Forest School Leaders explored practitioner experiences working with children and young people. A thematic analysis with a social-constructionist epistemology revealed three interrelated themes, which are inherent in the Forest School ethos. These themes show Forest Schools to be micro-communities constructed by participants. The study concluded that Forest School micro-communities are established by each Forest School that is formed. These micro-communities contribute to the social and emotional development of children and young people through the construction of a shared space, fostering a sense of community and a shared power paradigm between leaders and participants.
... The emphasis on more-than-human encounters is key to the 'common world pedagogies' put forward by Taylor and Giugni (2012) and others (Taylor 2013;Nxumalo and Pacini-Ketchabaw 2017), which emphasise allowing children the freedom to play and explore with and alongside other species, enabling a 'co-shaping' (Taylor and Pacini-Ketchabaw 2015) of the unique sets of 'enmeshed relations with others in their worlds' through which they experience their environments (Taylor 2013, 121). The importance of experts from outside the school system, meanwhile, has strong resonances with Thomas's (2016, 2018) work on 'community curriculum-making' , which, these authors argue, has great potential to increase pupils' levels of engagement by facilitating 'boundary crossing' between schools and other 'communities of practice' (see also Peacock and Pratt 2011). Finally, the highlighted value of a perceived 'relaxed atmosphere' points to the importance of retaining a degree of informality in conservation activities taking place within curricular educational contexts, so as to maintain openness to contingent moments such as spontaneous imparting of information stemming from the close-up encounters highlighted above. ...
This article highlights three key features that appeared to add value to young people’s experience of a school-linked environmental education initiative built around conservation activities. The three features – close-up encounters with other species, working with external experts, and a degree of informality – were identified through a combination of participant-observation, and focus groups seeking young people’s own perspectives. This article therefore responds to the need for further studies focusing not (only) on the outcomes of such programmes, but on participants’ lived experience of the processes contributing to them. Taken together, the three features highlight the value of a process of ‘curriculum making’ that included an openness to the communities in which schools are situated, to the material or ‘more-than-human’ world, and to unplanned events that enabled young people to experience a programme in their own ways. This finding brings together conclusions from related studies that separately emphasise the role of these elements in curriculum making processes.
... Gilbertson et al. (2006) emphasise that the place of outdoor learning is the outside world away from the classroom. Classes are taught outdoors or in an environment that is physically different from the classroom (Peacock & Pratt, 2009). Local spaces such as farms, beehives, hunting lodges, botanical gardens, parks or the schoolyard support teachers by making it easier to organise learning outdoors in locations that are readily accessible (MacQuarrie, 2016). ...
Full-text available
The present paper presents the results of a survey on outdoor lessons conducted by teachers of the subject Science and Technology in the 4 th and 5 th grades of primary school in the school's vicinity. It examines differences between teachers themselves and between teachers and students, as well as the ideas and limitations of outdoor lessons. The study included 70 in-service primary school teachers of the 4 th and 5 th grades and 154 students of the 4 th grade and 151 students of the 5 th grade of primary school. The data were obtained with two questionnaires: an e-questionnaire for teachers and a paper-pencil questionnaire for students. The results show that 13 per cent of teaching time in the subject Science and Technology consists of outdoor lessons. Statistically significant differences were found between teachers with different amounts of teaching experience, while differences in the quantity of outdoor lessons did not arise among teachers of different school strata and among teachers who had an early experience with outdoor lessons in the vicinity of school themselves as students compared to teachers who had no such experience. The teachers had several specific and general ideas for outdoor activities for the thematic sets of the Science and Technology curriculum and reported similar difficulties in planning outdoor lessons to those reported in other countries. The results of the research show that the teachers report the use of outdoor lessons in the vicinity of school more often than recalled by the students. The students reported that such activities typically take place about twice a year, mostly in playgrounds, meadows, and forests. The results provide an insight into the state of the teachers' initiatives for outdoor lessons in the subject Science and Technology and indirectly offer opportunities to reflect and act on outdoor lessons from different perspectives.
... Taking children outside of the classroom to the outdoors can transfer their learning to the physical space allowing for more physical mobility (Harris, 2017). Areas for learning connects with practices, norms of behavior, objectives, and goals for learning (Peacock & Pratt, 2011) so that new learning spaces can provide different contexts and environments for children's learning (Harris, 2017). ...
Full-text available
Experience with nature is particularly known to influence a person’s health and wellbeing. This case study identified behavioral changes in children with learning disabilities who underwent the Nature Walk Program. An intervention tool designed to let the participants experience nature activities. The study’s participants have cases of mild autism and down’s syndrome. Undergoing the Nature Walk Program resulted in the increased positive desire to participate in succeeding intervention sessions, improvement in their memory level, and awareness and sensitivity to the natural surroundings. All of these led to positive behavioral changes. Another important factor found in the success of the program as an intervention tool is the facilitators’ knowledge in handling the activities, which helps in the success of this endeavor. The study’s intervention tool hopes to be a model and instrument in affecting participants’ awareness of themselves with the aid of the natural environment through carefully selected outdoor activities. As a conclusion, utilizing the natural environment can also affect emotional behavior, social relationships, and the actual state of mind of children with learning disabilities.
... Taking children outside of the classroom to the outdoors can transfer their learning to the physical space allowing for more physical mobility (Harris, 2017). Areas for learning connects with practices, norms of behavior, objectives, and goals for learning (Peacock & Pratt, 2011) so that new learning spaces can provide different contexts and environments for children's learning (Harris, 2017). ...
Experience with nature is particularly known to influence a person’s health and wellbeing. This case study identified behavioral changes in children with learning disabilities who underwent the Nature Walk Program. An intervention tool designed to let the participants experience nature activities. The study’s participants have cases of mild autism and down’s syndrome. Undergoing the Nature Walk Program resulted in the increased positive desire to participate in succeeding intervention sessions, improvement in their memory level, and awareness and sensitivity to the natural surroundings. All of these led to positive behavioral changes. Another important factor found in the success of the program as an intervention tool is the facilitators’ knowledge in handling the activities, which helps in the success of this endeavor. The study’s intervention tool hopes to be a model and instrument in affecting participants’ awareness of themselves with the aid of the natural environment through carefully selected outdoor activities. As a conclusion, utilizing the natural environment can also affect emotional behavior, social relationships, and the actual state of mind of children with learning disabilities.
... Flera författare argumenterar istället för att man ska fokusera på vad olika informella lärmiljöer kan erbjuda för möjligheter till lärande och också tydliggöra på vilket sätt dessa kan fungera som komplement till skolans undervisning [7,9,60,61]. I relation till detta kan därför nedanstående aspekter lyftas ur den forskning som presenterats. ...
Full-text available
Informella lärmiljöer såsom museer, djurparker och science centers kännetecknas av att de är öppna för allmänheten och att de inte behöver ha en formell koppling till skolväsendet. Denna artikel syftar till att ge en översiktlig beskrivning av forskning om informella lärmiljöers effekter på elevers lärande och intresse för naturvetenskap. Forskningen visar att informella lärmiljöer kan påverka elevers lärande och intresse positivt. Samtidigt är kunskapen begränsad om hur detta går till och vilken betydelse besök har för ett mer beständigt intresse. Studierna lyfter särskilt (1) det sociala sammanhang som miljöerna erbjuder, (2) möjligheten till alternativa ingångar till naturvetenskap, samt (3) kopplingen till den reguljära skolverksamheten som viktiga aspekter för informella lärmiljöers möjlighet att påverka elevernas lärande och intresse. Utifrån detta diskuterar artikeln möjliga sätt som informella lärmiljöer kan kopplas till skolans formella undervisning i naturvetenskap.
Over the past 25 years Forest School in the UK has been growing in popularity as part of a wider resurgence of interest in outdoor learning. A key driver behind this recurrence of interest has been a growing concern over the lack of child exposure to outdoor experiences and with the natural world and their ensuing nature-deficit disorder. This article considers Forest School as linked with the concept of nature connection that is the sensation of belonging to a wider natural community. This sense of belonging developed by being in nature can also be a key factor in promoting attachment and sense of place which in turn is associated with the promotion of health, wellbeing and pro-environmental behaviours. As such the origins towards achieving nature connection are a formal part of the Forest School Association’s (FSA, 2016) Forest School principals, with growing research linking Forest School and nature connection as concomitant. Recent work has suggested that contact, emotion, meaning, compassion, and beauty are key pathways for the formation of nature connection and there is a strong need to better understand children’s nature connection in this context. Further, from the premise that what goes on in spaces and places is fundamentally linked to both social and spatial processes, this article also attempts to understand the spatialities of Forest School in order to frame the development of nature connection within a socio-spatial analytic.
Full-text available
Is science an invention of European thought, or have legitimate scientific bodies of knowledge and scientific ways of thinking emerged separately in other cultures? Can indigenous knowledge systems contribute to contemporary science teaching? Here we describe evidence from the Yupiaq culture in southwestern Alaska which demonstrates a body of scientific knowledge and epistemology that differs from that of Western science. We contend that drawing from Yupiaq culture, knowledge, and epistemology can provide not only a more culturally relevant frame of reference for teaching science concepts to Yupiaq students, but also a potentially valuable context for more effectively addressing many of the recommendations of U.S. science education reform initiatives. © 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 35: 133–144, 1998.
Full-text available
In today's schools there are often competing accounts of natural phenomena, especially when schools are located in multicultural communities. There are also competing claims about what counts as science. This article examines the definition of science put forward from multicultural perspectives in contrast to a universalist perspective on science; that is, the Standard Account. The article argues that good science explanations will always be universal even if indigenous knowledge is incorporated as scientific knowledge. What works best is still of interest to most, and although one may hate to use the word hegemony, Western science would co-opt and dominate indigenous knowledge if it were incorporated as science. Therefore, indigenous knowledge is better off as a different kind of knowledge that can be valued for its own merits, play a vital role in science education, and maintain a position of independence from which it can critique the practices of science and the Standard Account. © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Sci Ed85:50–67, 2001.
Indigenous science relates to both the science knowledge of long-resident, usually oral culture peoples, as well as the science knowledge of all peoples who as participants in culture are affected by the worldview and relativist interests of their home communities. This article explores aspects of multicultural science and pedagogy and describes a rich and well-documented branch of indigenous science known to biologists and ecologists as traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). Although TEK has been generally inaccessible, educators can now use a burgeoning science-based TEK literature that documents numerous examples of time-proven, ecologically relevant, and cost effective indigenous science. Disputes regarding the universality of the standard scientific account are of critical importance for science educators because the definition of science is a de facto "gatekeeping" device for determining what can be included in a school science curriculum and what cannot. When Western modern science (WMS) is defined as universal it does displace revelation-based knowledge (i.e., creation science); however, it also displaces pragmatic local indigenous knowledge that does not conform with formal aspects of the "standard account." Thus, in most science classrooms around the globe, Western modern science has been taught at the expense of indigenous knowledge. However, because WMS has been implicated in many of the world's ecological disasters, and because the traditional wisdom component of TEK is particularly rich in time-tested approaches that foster sustainability and environmental integrity, it is possible that the universalist "gatekeeper" can be seen as increasingly problematic and even counter productive. This paper describes many examples from Canada and around the world of indigenous people's contributions to science, environmental understanding, and sustainability. The authors argue the view that Western or modern science is just one of many sciences that need to be addressed in the science classroom. We conclude by presenting instructional strategies that can help all science learners negotiate border crossings between Western modern science and indigenous science.
Recent conceptualizations of knowing and learning focus on the degree of participation in the practices of communities. Discursive practices are the most important and characteristic practices in many communities. This study was designed to investigate how the content and form of classroom discourse was influenced by different combinations of artifacts (e.g., overhead transparencies, physical models), social configurations, and physical arrangements. Over a 4-month period, we collected data (video-taped activities, interviews, ethnographic observations, artifacts, and photographs) in a Grade 6-7 science class studying a unit on simple machines. Four different activity structures differed in terms of the social configuration (whole class, small group) and the origin of the central, activity-organizing artifact (teacher designed, student designed). This study describes how different artifacts, social configurations, and physical arrangements led to different interactional spaces, participant roles, and levels of participation in classroom conversations and, concomitantly, to different discursive forms and content. The artifacts had important functions in maintaining and sequencing conversations. Depending on the situation and the role of participants, artifacts served as resources for students' sense making. Each of the different activity structures supported different dimensions of participating in conversations and, for this reason, we conclude that science educators teaching large classes should employ a mixture of these activity structures. Overall, students developed considerable competencies in discursive and materials practices related to simple machines.
Prologue Part I. Practice: Introduction I 1. Meaning 2. Community 3. Learning 4. Boundary 5. Locality Coda I. Knowing in practice Part II. Identity: Introduction II 6. Identity in practice 7. Participation and non-participation 8. Modes of belonging 9. Identification and negotiability Coda II. Learning communities Conclusion: Introduction III 10. Learning architectures 11. Organizations 12. Education Epilogue.
This article explores the strengths and weaknesses of Lave and Wenger's concept of 'legitimate peripheral participation' as a means of understanding workplace learning. It draws on recent ESRC-funded research by the authors in contemporary workplace settings in the UK (manufacturing industry and secondary schools) to establish the extent to which Lave and Wenger's theories can adequately illuminate the nature and process of learning at work. The new research presented here, which was located in complex institutional settings, highlights the diverse nature of patterns and forms of participation. Case study evidence is used to identify individual and contextual factors which underpin and illuminate the ways in which employees learn. The paper argues that whilst Lave and Wenger's work continues to provide an important source of theoretical insight and inspiration for research in to learning at work, it has significant limitations. These limitations relate to the application of their perspective to contemporary workplaces in advanced industrial societies and to the institutional environments in which people work. These complex settings play a crucial role in the configuration of opportunities and barriers to learning that employees encounter.