“The Educational Nature of Different Ways Teachers Communicate with Children about Natural Phenomena”.

Gustavsson, L.
Pramling, N.
International Journal of Early Years Education, 22(1), 59-72.


This study takes place at a preschool. The purpose of this study is to present and analyse the qualitatively different ways in which preschool teachers communicate with children about natural phenomena, and subsequently discuss what these differences in communication mean for children's learning. The preschool is a forest kindergarten ("ur- och skurförskola").


The study identifies three qualitatively different ways in which the preschool teachers communicate with the children:

1.            One preschool teacher uses a form of communication in which she begins with one point of departure – a spider – initially counting legs. Then follows a discussion of the spider's weight, after which the children and the preschool teacher compare the spider to ants, and the children learn about the difference between a spider and an ant. In this way, the preschool teacher opens and expands the field of learning about differences in nature.

2.            In contrast to this, another preschool teacher uses what she believes is an experience she has in common with the children to understand an observation in nature. The situation involves a shrimp in a brook. The children think the shrimp is a silverfish, but the preschool teacher thinks that the children know that silverfish do not live in water. The children do not share this knowledge with the preschool teacher, and therefore this method does not teach the children about the natural phenomenon observed. If anything, they were confused and distracted.

3.            The third way shows a preschool teacher communicating with a child who has discovered a toad under a rucksack. The teacher turns the observation into a play situation. The preschool teacher humanises the toad and talks as if she is the toad. The child does not understand the game, but then finds out what it is about and plays along. However, the child does not learn anything about the toad.

The study concludes that all three forms of communication take place, and that they provide the children with different possibilities to learn. The study also concludes that the first way described – when the preschool teachers open for several different dimensions of nature on the basis of one observation – clearly provides the best possibilities for children to learn about nature.


The data basis for the study is a Swedish forest kindergarten, in which 15 children aged 4-5 years and their preschool teachers were observed during their trips to the forest. The observations focused on the interaction and communication between children and adults in spontaneous situations, e.g. when the children noticed an animal, rather than in the more planned teaching. The data collection was conducted through video footage. This resulted in 20 hours of video footage. The data was analysed on the basis of variation theory. The analysis focused on the preschool teachers' possibilities to stimulate learning in the children in their interaction and communication about natural phenomena.


Gustavsson, L. & Pramling, N. (2014) “The Educational Nature of Different Ways Teachers Communicate with Children about Natural Phenomena”. International Journal of Early Years Education, 22(1), 59-72.

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