Creative Exploration

Milne, Ian and Cremin, Teresa (2016). Creative Exploration. In: Davies, Dan and McGregor, Deb eds. Teaching Science Creatively Second Edition. Learning to teach in the primary school series. London: Routledge, pp. 77–90.



Children are naturally curious and explore in order to make sense of the world; play and exploration are vital to their learning and development. Space and support for children to think, ask questions, make predictions, experiment, look for explanations and draw conclusions is essential in primary science. This ‘children’s science’ emerges naturally as they seek to learn about the world around them (Johnston 2008) and develop creative explanations of natural phenomena. Adopting such an exploratory approach to teaching and learning science can mirror aspects of the ways in which professional scientists work.

Children’s spontaneous explorations are often prompted by aesthetic experiences that promote affective and emotional responses. Their explorations are associated with dispositions such as fascination, anticipation, engagement, awe, wonder, interest and curiosity and can lead to the use of scientific enquiry to develop explanations of natural phenomena. Inquiry-Based Science Education (IBSE) which is internationally recognised and fairly widely practised (Asay and Orgill 2010), builds upon children’s playful explorations of the world around them. While definitions of IBSE vary, Minner et al (2009) argue that these variations relate to the stress given to: what scientists do (e.g. conducting investigations using scientific methods), how students learn (e.g. actively inquiring through thinking and exploring phenomena or problems, often mirroring the processes used by scientists), and the pedagogical approach teachers employ (e.g. designing curricula that allow for extended investigations). This chapter focuses on children’s own inquiries and the role of play and exploration, highlighting the potential of IBSE. In particular it draws upon the voices of children from New Zealand and those involved in a recent EU project Creative Little Scientists, (CLS) undertaken in nine European countries - Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Malta, Portugal, Romania, UK. In exploring the pedagogical connections between IBSE and creative approaches to learning, the CLS team noted that play and exploration were core features of both approaches (Cremin et al., 2015). In addition they recognised other common features, including: motivation and affect, dialogue and collaboration, problem solving and agency, questioning and curiosity, reflection and reasoning, and teacher scaffolding and involvement. This chapter focuses on creative exploration, provides examples of this in action and seeks to support teachers in planning for such playful scientific inquiry.

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