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The green bean has to be longer than your thumb: An observational study of preschoolers' math and science experiences in a garden

School gardening has become increasingly popular as a context for learning in which children construct new knowledge, learn cultural and societal values related to ecological awareness, and develop and practice authentic or real-world skills (Blair, 2009; Bowker & Tearle, 2007). The present research was a longitudinal case study of children's gardening experiences at a Reggio-inspired preschool in the United States. Eleven children and their teacher were observed over nine days in various activities such as preparing the garden beds, planting, and harvesting. Through sustained participation in a variety of gardening activities, preschoolers engaged in science-rich dialogue utilizing complex and abstract science process skills such as observing, predicting, evaluating, and comparing. Discussion of number-related concepts, spatial orientation, and size estimation and comparison was also recurrent during gardening activities. In addition, analyses of social interactions and dialogue related to gardening knowledge and ecological awareness indicated that working in the garden was an authentic context for enjoying, learning about, and valuing the natural world. The results of this study support the conclusion that with appropriate teacher guidance, a preschool garden affords myriad opportunities for young children to develop mathematical and scientific thinking, ecological awareness and positive affective responses to the natural world. (author abstract)
Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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