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Fleer, M. (2009). Supporting scientific conceptual consciousness of learning in a ‘roundabout way’ in play-based contexts. International Journal of Science Education, 31(8) 1069–1089.

Primary and early childhood teachers are generally regarded as lacking competence and confidence in teaching science. But rather than pointing the finger at teachers, this paper suggests that the prevailing philosophy of pedagogy may be to blame.

Park, C. C. (2011). Young children making sense of racial and ethnic differences: A sociocultural approach. American Educational Research Journal, 48(2), 387–420. doi:10.3102/0002831210382889

In this study of preschoolers’ understandings and enactments of racial and ethnic difference, Park asks, “How do different ideas about diversity play out in the day-to-day interactions and activities of young children?” Park takes a sociocultural perspective, seeking to understand the ways children talk about difference and behave toward others in their preschool.

Van Schijndel, T. J. P., Franse, R. K., & Raijmakers, M. E. J. (2010). The Exploratory Behavior Scale: Assessing young visitors’ hands-on behavior in science museums. Science Education, 94, 794–809.

The authors of this paper were interested in knowing how parents can support exploratory behaviors of their preschool-aged children at museum exhibits. They developed a quantitative instrument based on psychological literature on exploration and play in order to describe and quantify young children's increasing levels of exploration of their environment. They then tested the measurement tool with parents and their preschool-aged children to investigate what types of adult coaching would achieve high-level exploratory behavior at various exhibits.

Alexander, J. M., Johnson, K. E., & Kelley, K. (2012). Longitudinal analysis of the relations between opportunities to learn about science and the development of interests related to science. Science Education, 96(5), 763–786. doi:10.1002/sce.21018

This study considers the relationship between preschoolers’ early exposure to informal science experiences and their interest in science, with particular attention paid to gender differences. A longitudinal study of children ages 4 to 7 found that early science interest was a strong predictor of later parent-provided opportunities to engage in science learning.

Akerson, V., & Donnelly, L. A. (2010). Teaching nature of science to K-2 students: What understandings can they attain? International Journal of Science Education, 32(1), 97–124.

This paper describes a Saturday science program for K-2 students designed to enhance their understanding of the nature of science. Teaching strategies were used to explicitly address all the elements of NOS—the role of empirical data, the distinction between observation and inference, the creative processes of science, the subjective (theory-laden) nature of research, and the tentative (though robust) NOS knowledge.

Assaraf, O. B.-Z., & Orion, N. (2010). System thinking skills at the elementary school level. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 47(5), 540-563.

Complex systems are an essential element of science education because they contain important ideas across science domains and are a part of national science standards. The authors evaluated their model and program for developing system-thinking skills for elementary school students. This article concludes with a hierarchy of levels that ISE professionals interested in engaging learners in system thinking could use to guide program development.

Nicolopoulou, A., Barbosa de Sá, A., Ilgaz, H., & Brockmeyer, C. (2009). Using the transformative power of play to educate hearts and minds: From Vyogtsky to Vivian Paley and beyond. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 17(1), 42–58. doi:10.1080/10749030903312512

Through a study of 14 preschool classrooms serving low-income children from diverse ethnic backgrounds, the authors illustrate how carefully incorporating play-based learning into curricula can improve both literacy and social competence skills. The results illuminate how to more deeply engage learners with informal science education.