Early STEM Award 2022 – National Winner
Professor Lynn Corcoran Early Learning Centre: FROEBEL Parkville
We were contacted by a sister centre in Germany, asking for support in developing their STEM program. They were looking at dinosaurs and were interested in exploring time differences and seasons in different parts of the world. We wanted to work in parallel with them and decided to look at something that was internationally significant. We read a journal article explaining that children start developing a sense of time in primary school, but we wanted to explore what children’s sense of time was like in the early years.
So, we posed the question to the kinder children: “What is time?”.
Tim: “My time is slow, it’s always slow.”
Cameron: “Growing takes time. It takes 100 years for a plant to become a tree.”
Camille: “Plants are slower than us.”
As they responded, we were blown away by their poetic notions of time and their experiences of time. This inspired our emergent inquiry project on ‘Time’.
Undertaking the project:
Following on from the children’s responses about “What is time?”, we developed multiple strands of inquiry. These included: a time machine, Twilight kinder, the rhythms of time through daily routines, observing time in different countries, linking Dreamtime stories to our observations of nature, changing shadows throughout the day, constructing sundials, and children’s memory and skill development.
We also explored the concepts of space and time and connected with Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav) — which explores gravitational waves, black holes, and warped spacetime — to request their assistance in answering our budding astrophysicist questions.
The scope and scale of the project meant that it was particularly inclusive to all children, as they were free to choose to participate and think as broadly as they wanted. This led to a really engaged team and some incredible ideas.
The longitudinal nature of the nursery experiment means that this experiment is ongoing. It has been lovely to see psychologist Lev Vygotski’s theory of proximal development in action as the more knowledgeable children demonstrate their skills to their younger peers.
Connecting our project to First Nations’ perspectives of time also added a richer perspective to the children’s understandings of time passing. Our concurrent reflections on the Kulin seasons — the six to eight seasons as recognised by the Kulin Nation, as opposed to the western notion of four seasons — meant that children were able to experience local environmental shifts in the seasons and identify the signs of those shifts on their excursions and during their lockdown walks.