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Importance of direct experience with forest organisms in early childhood science education

Špela Klofutar (2022) Importance of direct experience with forest organisms in early childhood science education. PhD thesis.

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    For preschool children, the natural environment is a diverse place that offers numerous opportunities to explore science. Children’s positive experiences in the natural environment form the basis for effective environmental education. This doctoral dissertation empirically examines the influences of direct and symbolic experiences with forest organisms on early science education. The aim was to find out what science knowledge, skills, and attitudes about forest plants and animals children acquire through activities with direct experiences in nature, and then to evaluate whether this is more efficient than activities where all this was acquired with symbolic experiences about nature. The study included four- and five-year-old preschool children (n = 129) and their teachers (n = 6). To this end, five activities were designed allowing children to explore forest organisms in the forest (direct experiences) and five activities that used videos, books, magazines, and jigsaw puzzles to present forest organisms in the playroom (symbolic experience). Data were collected through semi-structured interviews. The results showed that both educational programs carried out with experiment groups N (nature) and P (playroom) allowed preschool children to develop science observation skills. Direct outdoor experiences proved more effective than symbolic experiences of nature acquired in the playroom. However, with the right teaching approach, symbolic experiences can also contribute to developing science observation skills. It is vital to offer as many active learning opportunities as possible to preschool children because it is only through them that they can fulfill their desire to explore and experience their surroundings. It turned out that even short (one-week) activity programs can significantly influence science observation skills and knowledge. The study shows that direct outdoor experiences can be complemented with quality symbolic experiences, such as documentaries, books, magazines, educational games, and so on. It would make sense for further research to explore the influences of educational activities that combine direct and symbolic experiences of nature. In addition, more attention should be dedicated to the importance of direct outdoor experience that children obtain in their family environment and informal education programs. The doctoral dissertation contributes to a better understanding of the importance of direct and symbolic experiences for preschool science education, and it develops and evaluates science activities that will help improve the quality of preschool science teaching.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD thesis)
    Keywords: direct experiences, simbolic experiences, preschool children, early science education, forest, outdoor learning
    Number of Pages: 198
    Language of Content: Slovenian
    Mentor / Comentors:
    Mentor / ComentorsIDFunction
    izr. prof. dr. Gregor TorkarMentor
    Link to COBISS: https://plus.si.cobiss.net/opac7/bib/peflj/107309827
    Institution: University of Ljubljana
    Department: Faculty of Education
    Item ID: 7182
    Date Deposited: 11 May 2022 09:17
    Last Modified: 11 May 2022 09:17
    URI: http://pefprints.pef.uni-lj.si/id/eprint/7182

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