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At play, Native American kids show deeper ecological knowledge

Cara J

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Can playtime tell us how young children see wildlife and the environment? A study of Midwestern preschoolers found Native American children were more likely than others to roleplay as animals and showed a deep understanding of other species. “How kids learn and think about the natural world varies across cultures, said Sandra Waxman, a Northwestern University psychology professor and a co-author of the paper published in the Journal of Cognition and Development. “Children’s knowledge about the natural world is shaped importantly by community-held belief systems and exposure to the natural world,” she said. As part of a larger cross-cultural study on how children acquire ecological knowledge, lead author Karen Washinawatok, the former director of the Menominee Indian tribe of Wisconsin; Waxman and colleagues at Northwestern, the Menominee tribe and the American Indian Center of Chicago created a novel hands-on activity. The researchers presented 4-year-olds with a realistic forest diorama featuring toy plants and animals to play with. The children came from three different communities — the rural Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, Chicago’s Native American community and nonindigenous families from Chicago and Evanston. As the preschoolers interacted with the diorama, the researchers observed their speech and actions to gain insight [...]


Read more: http://wildlife.org/at-play-native-american-kids-show-deeper-ecological-knowledge/

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