Journal article

From the mountain and then? : Five-year-olds visiting the ‘Way of the water’ exhibition at a science centre.


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Publication Details

Subtitle: Five-year-olds visiting the ‘Way of the water’ exhibition at a science centre.

Author list: Åberg-Bengtsson, Lisbeth

Publication year: 2009

Start page: 13

End page: 31

Number of pages: 19

ISSN: 0020-7187



The focus of this article is on ten 5-year-old children and their teacher visiting a ‘Way of the water’ exhibition (a large scale model showing the flow of water from the mountains to the sea) at a science centre and a later follow up discussion at a circle-time back at pre-school. The aims of the study were to analyse, describe and discuss (a) what learning-content was focussed upon, (b) what communicative strategies were adopted by the adults (i.e. the teacher and a museum guide) when talking with the children about the natural phenomena met at the ‘Way of the water’, and (c) how different contexts framed the interaction between the adults and the children. The results show that both the guide and the teacher focussed mainly on single facts about nature and cultural phenomena and only to a lesser degree on environmental processes. The adults adopted three different strategies with respect to how the learning-content was approached, namely providing facts, directing attention by posing questions, and asking for accounts. We argue that each of these communicative strategies was related to a particular contextual framing. The children were, at times, very spontaneous and followed rules for everyday social interaction, whereas, when prompted by the teacher to arrive at ‘correct’ answers, they adapted to the well known ‘inquiry-response-evaluation’ [IRE] pattern. There are no instances in the data where the children express the idea of a large-scale coherent model. On the contrary, they talked only about individual parts of the exhibition — that is to say, things they actually saw, heard or felt. This may, to a large extent, be due to the fact that the adults did not on any occasion attempt to explain the model. Possible reasons for this are suggested in the concluding discussion.


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