The UNAWE national node in Japan has presented the first results of its research on the impact of a certain form of astronomy education activities. The Japanese team, lead by Tomita Akihiko from the Faculty of Education at Wakayama University, implemented an activity called Uchu no O-hanashi (Story about the Universe) in many classrooms of nurseries, kindergartens and preschools for the last seven years. They researched to which extent this exercise reaches the objective of teaching the principles of science to children. To assess this, they used the four domains from UNAWE’s evaluation guide - Motivation, Scientific skills, Universe knowledge and Intercultural attitudes.
The researchers recorded the conversations in the classroom after a science subject was addressed, like after a movie about rockets, searching for rainbows, or looking at pictures of sunsets. From these conversations, they deduced which parts of the principles of science children had experienced. Sometimes the kids were inspired, other times they observed a phenomenon closely, and in yet different situations they tried to interpret events.
Akihiko and his colleagues conclude from their research that Uchu no O-hanashi is a kind of activity where children often exchange opinions and try to interpret phenomena. Devising and confirming on the other hand are less frequently used. They also see that the conversation part of the activity promotes exchanging opinions and motivation to work on the exercise. One of the consequences of this is that children startusing more technical terms. A third conclusion is that in activities where children feel, express and interpret, they develop scientific skills like asking, exchanging opinions and trying to interpret others.
Tomita Akihiko presented his results at the Early Childhood Care and Education Annual Meeting in Japan.