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‘Drawing the Leaves Anyway’: Teachers Embracing Children’s Different Ways of Knowing in Preschool Science Practice

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This study explores if and how teachers combine practices of science and of preschool (children 1–5 years old) into preschool science practice. Views of knowing may differ between science practices, traditionally associated with masculinity and rationality, and preschool practices, traditionally associated with femininity and caring. Recognising this, we have chosen to focus on how teachers’ talk constructs and relates to possible ways of gaining knowledge and reaching explanations of phenomena in preschool science. The analysis builds on two concept pairs often associated with gender as well as knowing: objective-subjective and logical-intuitive. The analysed material consists of 11 group interviews where preschool teachers talk about activities concerning science content. Our results show that several ways of knowing are possible in work with science content in preschool. These include ways of knowing more associated with subjectivity, such as ‘individual liking’ and ‘whole-body perception’, as well as more associated with objectivity, such as ‘noticing differences and similarities’. Furthermore, the results show that the teachers’ talk moves readily between possibilities associated with femininity (subjective and intuitive) and masculinity (objective and logical). This indicates that the teachers in this study have found ways to handle science in preschool that goes against presumed tensions between science and preschool practices. The results contribute to more nuanced ways of describing and thinking about science in preschool and pave the way for further development of science education in early childhood education.
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Drawing the Leaves Anyway: Teachers
Embracing Childrens Different Ways of Knowing
in Preschool Science Practice
Sofie Areljung
1,2,3
&Christina Ottander
1
&Karin Due
1
Published online: 27 September 2016
#Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016
Abstract This study explores if and how teachers combine practices of science and of
preschool (children 15 years old) into preschool science practice. Views of knowing may
differ between science practices, traditionally associated with masculinity and rationality, and
preschool practices, traditionally associated with femininity and caring. Recognising this, we
have chosen to focus on how teacherstalk constructs and relates to possible ways of gaining
knowledge and reaching explanations of phenomena in preschool science. The analysis builds
on two concept pairs often associated with gender as well as knowing: objective-subjective
and logical-intuitive. The analysed material consists of 11 group interviews where preschool
teachers talk about activities concerning science content. Our results show that several ways of
knowing are possible in work with science content in preschool. These include ways of
knowing more associated with subjectivity, such as individual likingand whole-body
perception, as well as more associated with objectivity, such as noticing differences and
similarities. Furthermore, the results show that the teacherstalk moves readily between
possibilities associated with femininity (subjective and intuitive) and masculinity (objective
and logical). This indicates that the teachers in this study have found ways to handle science in
preschool that goes against presumed tensions between science and preschool practices. The
results contribute to more nuanced ways of describing and thinking about science in preschool
and pave the way for further development of science education in early childhood education.
Keywords Early childhood education .Science education .Preschool teachers .Gendered
practices
Res Sci Educ (2017) 47:11731192
DOI 10.1007/s11165-016-9557-3
*Sofie Areljung
sofie.areljung@umu.se
1
Department of Science and Mathematics Education, Umeå University, 901 87 Umeå, Sweden
2
The Graduate School for Gender Studies, Umeå Center for Gender Studies, Umeå University, Umeå,
Sweden
3
The Postgraduate School for Educational Sciences, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... These seemingly opposing ideals of the preschool and science -in simplified terms framed in an objectivity/subjectivity dichotomy -suggest that epistemological tensions arise as educators implement science activities in preschool. Such tensions are indicated in recent Swedish studies, showing student teachers' and in-service teachers' resistance to telling children what is 'right or wrong' in science activities, thereby avoiding the position of an authoritarian presenter of science facts (Areljung et al., 2017;Sundberg and Ottander, 2013). Other studies show that even though teachers have intentions to steer practice towards science learning, these intentions are often overshadowed by their will to follow children's initiatives and ideas (Gustavsson et al., 2016;Westman and Bergmark, 2014). ...
... But if children are encouraged and supported to conduct investigations based on their own discoveries and questions, children may, as in Siry's (2013) example, gain more multifaceted experiences of the buoyancy concept. Areljung et al. (2017) give another example of productive boundary work in the preschool science arena by pointing out how educators, in their talk about their own preschool science practice, acknowledge a vast range of legitimate ways to learn about the material world, including, and combining, children's systematic observations, experiments, whole-body experiences, personal taste and imagination. One educator tells a story about when they brought paper and pencils to a forest to draw the trees. ...
... One educator tells a story about when they brought paper and pencils to a forest to draw the trees. The children noticed that there were no leaves on the trees, but then 'some of them decided to draw leaves anyway because it was prettier' (Areljung et al., 2017(Areljung et al., : 1186. From this educator's point of view, there did not seem to be much tension involved in the fact that the children's observations of what the trees looked like were blended with their individual taste of what looked pretty. ...
This article seeks to contribute new perspectives to the ontology and epistemology of preschool science education by exploring the idea of using everyday verbs, rather than nouns, to discern possibilities for science learning in preschool. Herein, the author merges empirical examples from preschools with findings from research on children’s noun and verb learning and posthumanist perspectives on matter and concepts. What comes out of the exploration is a radical way of viewing and knowing the world. The verbs trigger a shift from an object-oriented view of the world to seeing action and non-tangible processes and phenomena in one’s surroundings. Further, the verbs highlight the potential science learning that emerges in action and in child–matter relations, opening up to preschool science pedagogies that go beyond subjective/objective and concrete/abstract binaries.
... As a result, the main aim of including science in early childhood education is not for young children to acquire scientific concepts, but to encourage them to question their own models and construct new ones that are increasingly closer to the models of school science [6]. Therefore, it is important to note that young children's models or explanations should not be evaluated as 'right' or 'wrong' [7]. ...
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... I nästa avsnitt redogör jag för studier som specifikt undersöker naturvetenskap i förskolan ur genusperspektiv. Genusperspektiv på naturvetenskap i förskolan I de förhållandevis få studier som undersöker naturvetenskap i förskolan ur ett genusperspektiv uppmärksammas framförallt förskollärarnas uppfattningar, samt egna erfarenheter av naturvetenskap (se exempelvis Andersson, 2011;Andersson & Gullberg, 2014;Areljung, Ottander, & Due, 2017;Gullberg, Andersson, Danielsson, Scantlebury, & Hussénius, 2018). Exempelvis studeras förskollärares sätt att hantera traditionella normer förknippade med naturvetenskap (maskulinitet, objektivitet, fakta) i kombination med normer som ofta förknippas med förskola (omsorg, femininitet, intuition, subjektivitet) . ...
Thesis
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The aim of this thesis is to explore how scientific phenomena, together with other agents (human and nonhuman) in preschool, participate in and co-create gendering processes as well as children’s emergent scientific explorations. These are seen as mutual processes emerging in the daily doings and routines in preschool. As a theoretical and methodological foundation, a new materialist perspective drawing on Karen Barad’s (2007) theory of agential realism and diffractive methodology were used, as well as de Freitas and Palmer’s (2016) notion concerning how scientific concepts can work as creative playmates in children’s explorations. The thesis includes four papers that build on data conducted during a field study in a Swedish preschool, together with 25 five year-old children and three teachers. Participant observations, including video recordings and field notes were made over a period of 5 months. The results show that, if and how children get to engage with emergent science is linked to if and how they manage to occupy space and co-act with different materials. As the children were co-acting with different materials, scientific phenomena could make themselves known and intelligible to the children. This means that becoming scientific is something that is enabled in entanglements. One important result connected to this is that these entanglements can include ways and agents not commonly thought of as “scientific”, such as a drawing table, hearts, and feminine discourses. Another result is that even though girls and boys explore together within the same activity, this does not automatically lead to a situation that is more equal. From these results I discuss how children’s emergent scientific explorations are always part of larger, gendered processes. I also discuss the importance to highlight how science in preschool can be “done” in various ways. Otherwise there is a risk that the false picture could be created that some children, already at preschool age, are more “suitable” for science, while others are created as “less suitable”, just as can occur in school and higher education. Furthermore, during the discussion I show how scientific phenomena can work as tools for teachers to approach gendering processes together with.
... Additionally, providing a positive, safe environment recognizes all developmental domains, including social-emotional, are necessary for science learning (Jaber and Hammer 2016;Klemm and Neuhaus 2017;Lee 2017). Finally, providing this environment recognizes the varied experiences, or funds of knowledge, young children bring to the classroom to be utilized (Dunac and Demir 2017) and highlight young children's different ways of knowing science (Areljung et al. 2016;Siry and Kremer 2011). These different ways of knowing provide a foundation for teachers to scaffold learning in the moment and extend the learning by providing materials or planned activities (Siry and Kremer 2011). ...
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... Consequently, I entered the ScienceMaking project with the assumption that science-arts integration harbour a potential to disrupt the human/nature and objective/subjective binaries that often constrain what counts as valid knowledge production in STEM education. I was aiming for a comprehensive story of knowledge production that allows for children's subjective contributions and entangled being in the world (see Areljung, Ottander & Due, 2017). ...
Chapter
This chapter examines how STEAM education may transform education in the STEM subjects towards education for a sustainable future. Particularly, it examines the potential of combining science and arts in preschool practice (children aged 1–5 years) for the sake of fostering sustainable knowing and being in the world. Here, it pursues the idea that everyday science verbs (e.g., rolling, bouncing and sticking) may be referents for children–matter relations in which science learning and creativity emerge. The chapter includes two stories from a collaboration with preschool teachers who have implemented verb-based science-arts education in practice. In one story, the verbs “sprout and grow” were combined with painting and drama, and in the other story, the verb “shade” (to cast a shadow) was combined with music, dancing and painting. Grounded in Edvin Østergaard’s plea to make more room for aesthetic experience in science education, in Barbara McClintock’s scientific creativity and “feeling for the organism”, and in Karen Barad’s agential realism, the chapter portrays examples of science-arts education that allow children to be intensely involved in the world. It concludes that the arts may help children not only to communicate and explore science phenomena, but also to sympathise with nature’s goings on from within; from their own multifaceted experiences of what it is like to cast a shadow, sprout and grow.
... Studies using gender perspectives have mostly focused on teachers' approaches and conceptions. For example, how teachers handle and combine traditional norms connected to science (masculinity, objectivity, facts) with norms connected to preschool (care, femininity, intuition, subjectivity) (Areljung, Ottander, and Due 2016), pre-service teachers' reflections and different ways of identifying events related to gender and emergent science (Gullberg et al. 2018) and pre-service teachers' own (gendered) experiences from learning science and technology and how this affects their ability to teach science and technology to children (Andersson 2011;Andersson and Gullberg 2014;Hedlin and Gunnarsson 2014). These studies show that norms and discourses connected to science and gender affect teachers and how they teach, but that these aspects can be less determining if teachers combine scientific facts with children's subjective theories and explorations. ...
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