Investigating the environmental scientific concepts in children's play : how do children and teachers interpret play-based learning

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Cutter-Mackenzie, AN, Edwards, S & Fleer, M 2009, 'Investigating the environmental scientific concepts in children's play: how do children and teachers interpret play-based learning', Australian Research in Early Childhood Education, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 49-61.


Longstanding play research has focused on defining what play is, the social benefits of play, and how play acts as a pedagogical tool for supporting young children's learning. The theoretical development of play has received very little attention, particularly, in relation to cognition. This article challenges traditional perspectives on play research and the role of play in early learning and reports the findings from a small-scale pilot study that investigated early childhood teachers' and children's perceptions of the environmental scientific concepts embedded in play-based experiences. The project involved children and teachers from two kindergartens located in separate municipalities within metropolitan Melbourne. The intention of the study was to determine whether or not a discrepancy existed between the pedagogy of play, and the children's acquisition of environmental conceptual knowledge. The findings were framed using the theoretical work of Vygotsky, and suggested that children and teachers need to engage in extended, shared interactions that focus on the conceptual content embedded in play-based experiences if children are to acquire conceptual knowledge through participation in play-based pedagogies.