Young children’s questions about science topics when situated in a natural outdoor environment: a qualitative study from kindergarten and primary school
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionInternational Journal of Science Education. 2021, 43 (7), 1017-1035. 10.1080/09500693.2021.1895451
Asking questions is an important way of acquiring information and knowledge and plays a significant role in a child’s learning processes. In this study, we examine what characterises the questions asked by children to their teachers in two kindergartens (4–6-year-olds) and six primary school classes (2nd–4th grade) when situated in a natural outdoor environment. Recordings are undertaken by means of action cameras and audio recorders. We also examine the contexts in which the questions are asked. We found that whereas the preschool children’s science topic questions mostly concerned subject matter (74–95%), the schoolchildren more often asked practical questions. Our findings indicate that providing the children with activities that open for the children’s own explorations of a variety of nature elements seems to elicit subject matter questions in the children. We also found that children ask subject matter questions to gain factual information, as well as first-hand experiences about the object being studied, and that they ask few questions of higher cognitive levels. By providing answers to the children’s basic information questions, this seems to elicit questions of higher cognitive levels. In all the question-asking settings, it is important that the teacher follows up on the children’s explorations.