Thinking Language Awareness at a Science Centre: Ipads, Science, and Early Literacy Development with Multilingual Kindergarten Children in Canada

Thinking Language Awareness at a Science Centre: Ipads, Science, and Early Literacy Development with Multilingual Kindergarten Children in Canada

Danièle Moore (Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada), Maureen Hoskyn (Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada) and Jacqueline K. Mayo (Science World, Vancouver, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/IJBIDE.2018010104
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Abstract

Situated in the highly multilingual context of Vancouver, this article discusses aspects of a collaborative research project, intertwining the development of language awareness and scientific, technological, and multilingual literacies in a science centre environment. Participants were multilingual, kindergarten-aged children who attended an interactive, activity-based science educational program in a local science centre and participated in writing activities in a nearby community centre. The article will discuss the science centre as a transformative learning environment to harness cultural and linguistic diversity, a vital resource to simultaneously develop language awareness, and science knowledge. Multimodal data sources include visual documentation of the linguistic landscape at the science centre, as well as photographs, video recordings and field notes of children working individually or in small groups, and a selection of the products children created.
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Introduction

While Language and Content Integrated Learning (CLIL) covers a wide range of educational practice in which content knowledge is fully or partially taught through a second language in a variety of education environments (Mehisto, Frigols, & Marsh, 2008), most research in this area focuses on the classroom, and seldom explores CLIL intersections with science education and language awareness, multimodality and print literacy development (Langer & Neumann, 2012; Kress, Jewitt, Ogborn, & Tsatsarelis, 2001; Kress, Ogborn, & Martins, 1998). Specifically, little is understood about CLIL with young learners in other sites of learning such as science centres. The aim of this research is to address this issue by exploring how young plurilingual children use digital tools such as iPads to engage with science in a science centre. In this paper, the authors define plurilingual children as children who have knowledge and experience of, and engage in, several languages in their environment and their daily interactions, notwithstanding their level of competence (Coste, Moore, & Zarate, 1997, 2009). The term multilingualism is reserved to describe language contacts in the society and the environment. A plurilingual approach to language competence and learning insists on a holistic understanding of proficiency, and on the cross-fertilisation of languages for learning.

Our study presents an on-going collaborative research project, that articulates the development of scientific, technological, and multilingual literacies in a science centre environment. Children attended a series of workshops, the Budding Scientists, intended to provide learners with authentic learning settings, hands-on experiences and triadic forms of communication to scaffold language awareness and learning in English (L2), and to collaboratively develop science literacy, critical skills and to facilitate a joy of learning and wonder about the world in which we live.

The exploration involves a single case study with multiple, embedded units of analysis (Yin, 2009) that was conducted at a science centre, situated in the highly multilingual context of Vancouver, Canada. Three embedded units of analysis that defined the study were: 1) educational practices of all children in a dedicated instructional space, where a science centre staff member facilitated children’s engagement in science and multilingual literacy practices designed by the team; 2) the process of construction of an eBook as 4-5 children interacted with a volunteer research assistant; and 3) the individual case, where single children were observed exploring and deliberating, and where they were interviewed to further capture the complexity of their engagement with science and multilingual literacy practices in the galleries and with the volunteer research assistant and with other children.

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