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Abstract

Recognition of the importance of providing science-related experiences for young children has resulted in increased numbers of outreach programs aimed at a preschool audience. Early meaningful experiences of science have been found to promote children’s interest in science and enhance their self-belief that they can be effective science learners. However, ensuring that outreach programs fulfill their potential depends largely on the pedagogical approaches of the informal educators who deliver the program. Understanding how young children learn and valuing the range of knowledge and experience they bring provides a context in which their formative ideas about science can be shaped. In this chapter we draw upon our research into one outreach program with 3- and 4-year-old children where we worked with informal science educators to promote a positive environment that encouraged learning through play. We found that effective pedagogy involved active participation by the educator throughout the program. This role involves, firstly, emotional support, followed by modelling and encouraging exploration by the children, and then questioning. Through this process informal science educators can develop science conversations with children to extend their current knowledge and ideas. Our research emphasized that informal science educators must thoroughly understand the purpose and potential of their outreach program as a whole and that it is more than offering young children a variety of interesting activities.

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... It is not surprising, then, that a detailed study by Howitt et al. (2017) concluded that science outreach programs aimed at young children should provide emotional support to encourage children's exploration of the exhibits, incorporate modelling to demonstrate how exhibits work, and use open-ended questions to extend children's thinking. Further, outreach staff should assist adult carers to understand and acknowledge the place of play and learning as complementary; encourage active adult engagement with the children and the exhibits; and acknowledge children as capable and competent science thinkers, learners and communicators. ...
... Notably, children used their own language in the verbal communication, such as the term 'slimy slopey' to describe the concave slope of a mirror. Howitt et al. (2017) have previously noted the importance of accepting children's language and allowing them to provide an answer that makes sense to them. This approach acknowledges children's competence and developing skills. ...
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This paper describes how individualized photobooks were used to support 3- and 4-year-old children in demonstrating their science learning and developing their science identity through participation in a science outreach program. Photographic images stimulate children’s visual thinking and allow them to provide explanations of complex concepts using their language, thus supporting children at their level of understanding. Twenty child/parent dyads were video-recorded interacting with the exhibits during a Science Outreach program into Western Australian community playgroups. Screen shots from the video-recordings were used to develop individual printed photobooks for each child. One week after the program, the photobooks were used in a photo-elicitation conversation with the children (accompanied by their parents) about how the exhibits worked. Children took their photobooks home and 7 weeks after the program parents were interviewed about how the photobooks were used. The photobooks were found to assist the children in demonstrating their science understandings by providing a context for conversation and allowing the children to show their competence, use multiple forms of communication (verbal, non-verbal and through parent), and participate or withdraw on their terms. At home, the photobooks were found to be a focus for the children to share their knowledge of the Outreach program with family members, give the children a voice, and provide them with time to express their understandings. Having the child as narrator of his/her story and the adult as listener empowered the child’s sense of identity. The use of individualized photobooks was found to contribute to the development of the children’s identity and increase their agency in science and enhanced the parents’ perceptions of their children as young scientists.
... Both Barriault and Pearson (2010) and Hutt's epistemic behaviour are aimed at describing or categorising learning behaviour. Hutt's category for ludic behaviour seemed to describe the kinds of activities we had seen in previous work with young children (Howitt et al., 2017;Rennie & McClafferty, 2002). We decided to explore a combination of the two by using the categories of the Visitor Engagement Framework to describe epistemic behaviour, aimed at cognitive learning and knowledge building, and Hutt's ludic behaviour categories to describe the symbolic and repetitive play young children evidence. ...
Article
The Children’s Engagement Behaviour Framework was developed to describe young children’s engagement with science exhibits and how their behaviour is related to learning about the exhibits. The Framework was synthesised from frameworks in research literature related to family learning and the nature of play. It describes three categories of epistemic behaviour and two categories of ludic play behaviour. Field-testing in a playgroup environment where young children engaged with science exhibits revealed that its five categories effectively captured the range of engagement behaviours children displayed. The Framework was used to code video-recordings of 20 children in five further playgroups, categorising 89 child-exhibit interactions lasting at least 30 s. The inter-coder agreement was 93% and differences were easily resolved. The highest level of epistemic behaviour was recorded at each exhibit and 29 instances of ludic behaviour occurred. Children were interviewed using stills from their video-recording to stimulate discussion about exhibits. Epistemic behaviour was strongly related to learning about how the exhibit worked but ludic behaviour had no relationship with such learning. This research has demonstrated the relationship between observable epistemic behaviour and learning and provided a Framework for research into the engagement behaviour of young children. Practical applications of the Framework arediscussed.
... Children should be allowed free time to interact with family or peers or engage in independent play (van Beynen & Burress, 2018). Informal learning activities, which include play, allow the participant to better understand connections between cause and effect (Andre, Durksen, & Volman, 2017;Howitt, Blake, & Rennie, 2017). Example: When children rolled dice in the sea turtle obstacle course, the dice determined if the turtle (participant) reproduced, moved through the Turtle Excluder Device, ate a plastic bag, etc. ...
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There is a growing commitment within science centres and museums to deploy computer-based exhibits to enhance participation and engage visitors with socio-scientific issues. As yet however, we have little understanding of the interaction and communication that arises with and around these forms of exhibits, and the extent to which they do indeed facilitate engagement. In this paper, we examine the use of novel computer-based exhibits to explore how people, both alone and with others, interact with and around the installations. The data are drawn from video-based field studies of the conduct and communication of visitors to the Energy Gallery at London’s Science Museum. The paper explores how visitors transform their activity with and around computer-based exhibits into performances, and how such performances create shared experiences. It reveals how these performances can attract other people to become an audience to an individual’s use of the system and subsequently sustain their engagement with both the performance and the exhibit. The observations and findings of the study are used to reflect upon the extent to which the design of exhibits enables particular forms of co-participation or shared experiences, and to develop design sensitivities that exhibition managers and designers may consider when wishing to engender novel ways of engagement and participation with and around computer-based exhibits.
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This article examines the level of empowerment and autonomy children can create in their play experiences. It examines the play discourses that children build and maintain and considers the importance of play contexts in supporting children's emotional and social development. These aspects of play are often unseen or misunderstood by the adult observer. The article emphasises the importance of adult-free play, enabling children to experience a sense of power in their play and explore their awareness of personal and social relationships. It analyses the influence the adult can have on children's play spaces, by bringing an 'adult agenda' to the play situation, and how this may ultimately disempower children.
Book
Rev.& expanded from Case study research in education,1988.Incl.bibliographical references,index
Chapter
The study of play has a longer history than the study of psychology itself, but the ideas about the phenomenon have shown remarkable changes according to the prevailing climate and conditions.
Article
Objectives At the end of this chapter you will: Recognise the potential for science with 3 and 4-year-old children. Recognise the place of everyday science in free and guided play for 3 and 4-year-old children. Describe various pedagogical principles to enhance the science teaching and learning of 3 and 4-year-old children through free and guided play. Relate children’s science experiences to the fi ve outcomes of the EYLF. Overview Within Australia there have been progressive moves for young children to be placed in school contexts, resulting in some 3 and 4-year-old children being placed in ‘formal’ education. As a result, early childhood educators are being challenged as to why, what and how they should teach science. Through two case studies, this chapter explores pedagogical practices associated with the teaching and learning of science in young children, using play as a medium, and relates the findings to the five outcomes of the EYLF (DEEWR, 2009). Young children's learning and the potential for science understanding Young children are naturally inquisitive. They are active and social learners with an innate curiosity and wonder of the world, which makes them ideal scientists. Children have questions to ask, problems to solve, conversations to share, and social and playful situations to use in their learning (Greenman, 2007). They also have developing concentration and attention spans, an egocentric nature, an awareness of taking turns, an interest in exploring relationships and a vocabulary that is expanding while they are continuing to develop fine and gross motor skills (Kearns & Austin, 2010).
Article
Objectives At the end of this section, you will be able to: recognise a range of teaching approaches demonstrate the need to scaffold a child's explorations and how this can be achieved be able to use effective questioning for focusing and enhancing children's learning be able to describe ways that educators can enhance learning through targeted exploration recognise the skills, processes and knowledges that can be acquired by very young children. Overview This chapter links theory with practice by discussing the range of teaching approaches that can be used with young children to enhance their learning. It discusses the interactivity of the approach the educator uses with the child and the settings. Whether it is through the processes of science, such as the development of observation, or through the skilful questioning of the educator, the approach used should enhance children's learning. From theory to practice Considering the range of learning theories presented in the earlier chapters of this book, how does a practitioner make sense of the multitude of theoretical perspectives available and translate these into a practice that aids children's learning? One way is to consider the strong messages coming from all theories: children construct their own understanding, learning is enhanced through social interaction and the practitioner is pivotal to children's learning.
Article
Little change has been noted over 10 years of research into teacher knowledge and confidence to teach science in the early and primary years of schooling. There is a significant body of research demonstrating that early childhood and primary teachers lack confidence and competence in teaching science. However, much of this research blames the victim, and offers little analysis for the systemic reasons for teachers’ confidence and competence in science education other than a lack of science knowledge. This paper reports on a study that examined teacher philosophy and pedagogical practices within the context of an analysis of children’s concept formation within playful early childhood settings. Through teacher interviews, video recordings of science play, and photographic documentation of children’s science activities in one rural preschool, it was noted that teacher philosophy about how young children learn is a significant contributing factor to learning in science. It is argued that teacher philosophy makes more of a difference to children’s scientific learning than does teacher confidence to teach science or knowledge of science. The study also shows that without a mediational scientific framework for using materials in play‐based contexts, children will generate their own imaginary, often non‐scientific, narratives for making sense of the materials provided.
Article
This article reports an investigation into the use of 12 Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Interactive Science Exhibits, borrowed by two community venues—a regional Hall of Fame and a metropolitan Library—as part of a science center's outreach program. Data were generated through interviews with venue staff, interviews with adults and surveys of children who visited the exhibits, and observations of visitor behavior around the exhibits. All children and most adults enjoyed using the exhibits, and adults thought the exhibits would raise people's (particularly children's) awareness of science and teach scientific ideas. Venue staff were pleased with the outcomes of the exhibit loan; however, the potential educational effectiveness of the exhibits was limited by issues relating to location and the visitors’ agendas. There were problems in attracting people to the exhibits and encouraging visitors, particularly adults, to engage with them. Suggestions are made to increase the effectiveness of using interactive exhibits in community settings.
Article
The question, "What constitutes a reasonable, useful agenda for research into science learning in out-of-school, free-choice environments?" has surfaced with increasing frequency over the past 10 years or so. One event that helped move the agenda forward was the National Science Foundation-funded conference, "Public Institutions for Personal Learning: Understanding the Long-term Impact of Museums," held in Annapolis in 1994. The proceedings of this conference, published by the American Association of Museums (Falk & Dierking, 1995), reflected a large step forward in setting out the research issues and questions involved. Although focused on museums (a generic term including all kinds of museums, botanical gardens, aquaria, zoos, and science and other interpretative centers), the issues discussed are applicable to a wide range of non-museum contexts. The Annapolis conference was conceived as a forum for frontline researchers in a variety of fields representing the physical, social, and personal dimensions of learning. The goal was to discuss how the thinking and modalities of their disciplines might shed insights into the nature of learning and be used to define and lay out a long-term research agenda in museums. At about the same time, a small group of science museum practitioners held several meetings under the auspices of the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) and the Institute of Museum Studies (IMS) to start thinking about a research agenda in their area of expertise. The results of the think tank meetings were published in six successive ASTC newsletters during 1996 (and are now available at http://www.astc.org/resource/educator/educmain.htm#theories).
Article
How can museums encourage active family learning? Four Philadelphia area science institutions—The Franklin Institute Science Museum, the New Jersey State Aquarium, the Academy of Natural Sciences, and the Philadelphia Zoo—have investigated the answer to this question as part of the PISEC (Philadelphia-Camden Informal Science Education Collaborative) Family Learning Project. PISEC is conducting research and exhibit development aimed at increasing understanding of family learning in science museums and identifying the characteristics of successful family learning exhibits. The PISEC project has three phases, two of which have been completed: (1) a research study to establish behavioral indicators for family learning; (2) the development and evaluation of four exhibit enhancements aimed at achieving family learning goals; (3) a research study of the impact of the four enhanced exhibits. This article will describe the results of formative evaluation conducted during Phase 2 of the project. “Family learning components,” or exhibit enhancements, designed to help adults and children learn together, were developed, field-tested, revised, and installed at each of the four museums. PISEC has identified seven characteristics of successful family learning exhibits: multi-sided, multi-user, accessible, multi-outcome, multi-modal, readable, and relevant. The four PISEC family learning components, embodying these characteristics, appear to have increased active family learning.
Learning through play. For babies, toddlers and young children
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Objects and learning: Understanding young children's interaction with science exhibits
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