Play-based Science Learning

Learning Language and Science at Play: Threads of Meaning-Making and Identities

The Water Cycle Tableau: The children performed the water cycle through gestures and body language.
The Dice Game: The children played with a dice set to match definitions and images representing the water cycle.

This case study took place in an elementary school renowned for its decades-long efforts to embrace diversity and inclusion.

Multimodal scrapbooks: The children represented their language and science learning multimodally.
The Fortune Teller Origami: Students practiced the target language and content through this play activity.

Jonathan Ferreira and Mr. Sam, a first year teacher, co-designed an interdisciplinary unit of study through which Grade 2/3 children from migrant and refugee backgrounds learned about water and its cycle while playing with dice sets and fortune teller origamis, embodying scientific language and concepts through a theatre-based activity, and visually representing their scientific knowledge in multimodal scrapbooks. The children also inquired about issues in their own communities and created building block models to represent problem-solving ideas.

Block Models: After reading a picture book about an African teenager who drew on his scientific knowledge to solve a water-related problem, the children inquired about problems in their own communities and created block models to represent imagined solutions.

Our thematic analysis of classroom interactions, interviews with teachers and the children, and the children’s multimodal productions reveals how migrant and refugee background children can draw on their lifeworld experiences and sociocultural backgrounds as assets to authentically make meaning of language and content knowledge and position themselves as creative citizens.

This website showcases a research project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Insight Grant no. 435–2017-0338). The study has been reviewed by the UBC Behavioral Research Ethics Board (Certificate no. H17-01074), and the procedures were found to be acceptable on ethical grounds for research involving human subjects.

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