Scientific literacy in the early years: Understanding through a cultural-historical lens

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The concept of scientific literacy encompasses gaining scientific knowledge, establishing scientific knowledge in a specific context, and applying knowledge to a real-life situation. Play is considered a leading activity of children, and children transform the meaning of objects during play, which creates a new sense for them to understand the world (Vygotsky, 1967). Children develop their complex understanding of small scientific concepts through play with the support of others and apply their learning in their regular play context (Sikder & Fleer, 2018), eventually developing their scientific literacy.

Developing scientific literacy among children is a complex process because their learning is influenced by educational institutions, educators, parents, and their social and cultural environment, which need to be studied holistically. The cultural–historical theory explores how social and cultural–historical contexts influence the individual’s mind holistically (Levitin, 1982). Additionally, play activities create a Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky, 1978), which helps children develop their conscious realisations of science concepts and scientific literacy through play with the support of adults. The context of children’s play evolves the nature of concept formation, which can be ensured by developing everyday and scientific concepts, and Vygotsky discussed this as a dialectical process (Vygotsky, 1987).

However, developing scientific literacy among children in early years in play-based activities using the cultural–historical lens is an undiscovered area, and this study aims to begin to address this gap. The Early Years Learning Framework V2.0 (EYLF V2.0) advocates providing a balance between child-led and adult-initiated and guided play (AGDE, 2022), and this research also aims to minimise the gap. A scientific literacy model has been developed based on a model by Fleer (2022). This paper analyses the scientific literacy model using the lens of cultural–historical theory and intentional teaching aspects of the EYLF V2.0. The scientific literacy model will provide specific pedagogical understanding for educators to implement scientific literacy in the early years.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAustralasian Journal of Early Childhood 2024 Research Symposium
Subtitle of host publicationListening, empowering and innovating
Place of PublicationVirtual event
PublisherAustralasian Journal of Early Childhood
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 08 Feb 2024


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