Urban primary-grade children think and talk science: Curricular and instructional practices that nurture participation and argumentation

Authors

  • Maria Varelas,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education (M/C 147), University of Illinois at Chicago, 1040 W. Harrison St., Chicago, IL 60607-7133, USA
    • Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education (M/C 147), University of Illinois at Chicago, 1040 W. Harrison St., Chicago, IL 60607-7133, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Christine C. Pappas,

    1. Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education (M/C 147), University of Illinois at Chicago, 1040 W. Harrison St., Chicago, IL 60607-7133, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Justine M. Kane,

    1. Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education (M/C 147), University of Illinois at Chicago, 1040 W. Harrison St., Chicago, IL 60607-7133, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Amy Arsenault,

    1. Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education (M/C 147), University of Illinois at Chicago, 1040 W. Harrison St., Chicago, IL 60607-7133, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Jennifer Hankes,

    1. Chicago Public Schools
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Begoña Marnotes Cowan

    1. Chicago Public Schools
    Search for more papers by this author

  • A version of this paper was presented at the 13th International Conference on Learning, Montego Bay, Jamaica, June 22–26, 2006.

    The study is part of a larger project that is funded by a three-year (2004–2007) U.S. National Science Foundation ROLE (Research On Learning and Education) to M. Varelas and C. C. Pappas as principal investigators.

    The data presented, statements made, and views expressed in this article are solely the responsibilities of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Abstract

We focus on the concept of matter and explore how young children in urban schools bridge their spontaneous concepts and everyday experiences with scientific concepts introduced to them by children's literature information books and their teacher. The study shows how material artifacts used in a sorting activity became ideational tools—semiotic devices that promoted children's engagement with science and shaped the classroom discourse, thinking, and transactions. “Ambiguous” objects, such as a baggie with air, shaving cream, a baggie of salt that children were asked to sort, encouraged them to debate ideas about states of matter. Children used four ways of reasoning about states of matter: macroscopic properties, prototypes, everyday functions, and process of elimination. Furthermore, children's meaning making was intertwined with various socio-organizational aspects of inquiry—the ways in which children negotiated their roles within their group and in whole-class sessions, how they worked with each other, how their ideas were heard by others. We discuss how curricular and instructional approaches that do not lead children to one specific answer or way of thinking become catalysts for the creation of discursive spaces, where children and teacher engage in meaning making in the midst of ambiguity and confusion. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci. Ed92:65–95, 2008

Ancillary