Affordances of STEM-Related Skills at a Nature Preschool: A Multiple Case Study of Children's Engagement in Free Play

Date

2023

Authors

Mifflin, Melissa M.

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Abstract

The purpose of this multiple case study was to explore affordances for STEM-related skills in a nature preschool in central Texas. Observations were conducted along with the collection of videos and photographs of four preschool-aged participants. Informal interviews were also implemented during data collection and observations. Semi-formal interviews were performed with the teacher, teaching assistant, and one parent from each of the participants. The three main findings were 1. The creek, by the water, provided a location for observation and stillness, affording more science-related skills than other subjects. 2. Many STEM affordances were in climbable features with mostly math-related skills, followed by science, technology, and engineering-related skills. 3. Graspable/detached objects altered STEM affordances with technology and engineering-related skills happening more than science and math-related skills. Recommendations for future research are to conduct more studies on STEM nature play and research how to increase affordances based on environmental qualities. Implications for administration are to hire high-quality teachers and provide training on the natural environment and emergent curriculum. The community can connect children with native plants and wildlife. Policy should break down barriers based on proximity to nature, disabilities, and socioeconomic status. Children learn through play. Nature play provides affordances for STEM-related skills.

Description

Keywords

Affordance Theory, Free Play, Nature Play, Preschool, STEM

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Department

Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching