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Research article - Play in early years science


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This is a really valuable project and the observations are fascinating. The children hypothesized about the location of ‘missing caterpillars’ ,and to do so they drew upon their prior knowledge and experience and in at least one case a child tried to extend this by looking at a book to see what other knowledge of caterpillars could be drawn upon. The activity has a striking resemblance to the Ladybird Hunt reported in the attached.

The emphasis of this PEDaL research appears to be on the processes of science and the development of children’s investigative and problem solving skills. It would be interesting to discuss conceptual learning of science as well.

I think it is useful to recognise that since its first publications, the EYFS Guidance has presented an implicitly ‘emergent’ curriculum model. ‘Emergence’ is a term that is now applied in a wide range of academic contexts to explain the appearance of complex patterns and order that often appear in complex systems, even when none of the prerequisite conditions or components actually directly determine that pattern or order. It was a concept that both Vygotsky and Piaget took for granted as of relevance to the learning of concepts and complex operations. Montessori had an intuitive understanding as well. She understood that children draw upon a wide range of prerequisite capabilities when they finally draw them together creatively to master the complex operations that are involved in reading, writing and arithmetic.

I argued for a more emergent science curriculum at the SCIcentre 2000 and ASET Conference but it is a long time coming, and I am currently working with Lynnette Brock on a SchemaPlay project to develop an emergent curriculum for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). If you are interested in following this topic there will be news posted here as the project progresses.


Edited by JohnSB
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Thanks for your comment John! So lovely to have someone comment on this so quickly, and great to see how it strikes something that you are interested in. This article relates to the very early part of our project, which was Science process focused, as opposed to conceptual knowledge, and I think future work in this area will concentrate on the problem solving skills - as you mentioned, which can be taken across the curriculum. I know there is a body of research that concentrates on conceptual knowledge, but this isn't a focus for our current research: more process focused at the moment.


I will be sure to have a good look at the link you posted, definitely seems to be in sync with what we are interested in, so thanks for including that!


I'd also like to take this chance to open this out to any practicing teachers who may have thoughts on the article.. It would be great to hear from anyone for whom this article strikes a chord: be it from a current practice perspective or from a tried and tested place where some challenges were experienced.


All comments and questions very welcome, and I'll endeavor to check often to respond.




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