Studying the landscape of families and children's emotional engagement in science across cultural contexts

It has been reported that in cross-cultural contexts, Western science content is often not used in everyday practice, and the learning of science is often viewed as difficult and having no social meaning (e.g., Aikenhead & Michell, 2011). It is suggested that the cultural relevance of everyday family practices and Western constructions of science concepts may be worlds apart, requiring new forms of brokering between schools and communities. But this expansive cross-cultural work says very little about everyday family life for supporting the cultural learning of science for the birth to five year period. In this paper we report on how everyday and abstract scientific concepts are meaningfully constructed in the context of culturally relevant life events (Vygotsky, 1987) for the early childhood period. We analyse the science concepts involved in the process of a South Sudan Dinka wedding in Australia, and explore these concepts through science related games with families who in turn introduce the concepts to their children as part of their playgroup activities. The results of the study indicate that finding Dinka words to name Western science concepts was challenging, and conceptualising everyday routines and cultural practices with scientific lenses amplified emotional engagement in science and generated new family discourses between children and their extended families. The study contributes to better understanding the relations between everyday cultural practices and Western science learning in the early childhood period.<div><br></div><div><div>International Research in Early Childhood Education, vol. 7, no. 1, p. 122-141</div></div>