Re-imagining play spaces in early childhood education: supporting girls’ motive orientation to STEM in times of COVID-19

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    11 Citations (Scopus)


    In unprecedented times, the global community is calling for greater knowledge and engagement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to support the decision making and practices of the general community. COVID-19 has highlighted this pressing need and inviting a ‘new normal’. But STEM is not the core business of early childhood. What role can the early childhood education research community take? This paper reports on a cultural-historical study that investigated how a Conceptual PlayWorld changed the traditional Froebelian play areas to support girls’ play and motives in STEM. The question guiding that study was how could a Conceptual PlayWorld overcome the problems previously identified in the literature on girls’ inclusion in STEM activities in preschools. In our educational experiment we implemented a Conceptual PlayWorld over 12 weeks (123 hour of digital video observations), with a focus on role-playing ‘as if’ engineers and scientists (five 4-year-olds and eight 5-year-olds). The outcomes show how a Conceptual PlayWorld created new kinds of 21century learning areas. Spaces traditionally difficult for girls to enter, were transformed and afforded completely new ways of playing, shown to be inclusive of girls, and disrupted gendered interactions and divergence.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3-20
    Number of pages18
    JournalJournal of Early Childhood Research
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021


    • COVID-19
    • cultural-historical
    • early childhood
    • gender
    • playworlds
    • STEM

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