Can an anti-bias approach have anything to say about science? Isn’t science neutral, apolitical?
Yes, and no!
While it’s simpler to recognise the importance of tackling bias and addressing unfairness in the realm of say, literacy or dramatic play, all aspects of our curricula are bound up in social and political dynamics. Even science!
Let’s go a little deeper.
Everyone knows and loves Outcome 4 of the EYLF: children are confident and involved learners. Its various sub-points talk about children developing dispositions of curiosity, skills of problem-solving and inquiry, and the ability to transfer knowledge and skills across contexts. Science-y stuff!
In order for children to feel confidence as scientific learners, they must firstly feel confidence and pride in their family and social identities.
Are young girls and non-binary children seeing themselves represented as scientists, engineers and mathematicians in your setting? Are you as quick to understand these children’s curiosities about the world in a scientific frame as you might be boys’ curiosities?
What about Indigenous scientific cosmologies? Are your investigations of astronomy, palaeontology, geography and biology foregrounding Indigenous knowledge and inquiry? How are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children positioned in relation to science in your curriculum?
The biggest social and scientific challenge of our time is human-induced climate change. As O’Hara-Aarons (2020) writes inThe Anti-Bias Approach in Early Childhood (4th ed.), for many educators, climate change is addressed in the curriculum through the lens of household sustainability: worm farms, compost, recycling, saving water, gardening, etc.
While these are wonderful and worthy initiatives, O’Hara-Aarons (2020, p.144) challenges us to honour children’s ability to engage with structural questions of power and inequality as they relate to the climate crisis. She asks:
What does it mean for a child to construct a knowledgeable, confident self-identity in the context of a world in the grip of climate crisis?
What connections exist between climate change education and children developing comfortable, empathetic and just interactions with diversity?
How can exploration of the climate crisis be used to support children as powerful change agents to further develop their capacity to challenge injustice through activism?
A disconnect often exists between children’s desire to grapple with social and scientific questions, and adults’ disrespect for children’s capabilities, agency and knowledge. Nine-year-old Livvy tells a story:
. . . we went on the train [to the student-led climate strike] and then there was [a] woman on the train questioning me about my poster. I answered her that it was about coal being bad for the environment . . . Then she said “Oh, so you came here to protest and you didn’t even know what your poster means”. But I did know, she just didn’t understand the issues well(2020, p.111).
When adults are deeply curious about children’s curiosities, the consequent teaching, learning and play is both higher quality and higher equity.
This National Science Week, ask yourself how anti-bias approaches can make your scientific inquiries deeper, fairer, more curious, more inclusive and more wondrous.
Livvy and Indi. (2020). Childism and children as activists. In R. R. Scarlet (Ed.), The anti-bias approach in early childhood (4thed., pp. 109-114). Multiverse Publishing. https://multiverse.com.au/product/the-anti-bias-approach-in-early-childhood-4th-edition/
O’Hara-Aarons, K. (2020). Climate change and anti-bias. In R. R. Scarlet (Ed.), The anti-bias approach in early childhood (4thed., pp. 143-148). Multiverse Publishing. https://multiverse.com.au/product/the-anti-bias-approach-in-early-childhood-4th-edition/
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