Young children co-constructing science: The importance of their families and cultural communities

Christine M. McWayne, Gigliana Melzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is considerable agreement among scientists, educators, and policymakers about the need to broaden participation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. Yet, equity requires much more than increasing STEM access for marginalized groups of children. In this invited commentary, we raise two critical points for the field to continue to grapple with as we investigate ways to engage young minds in STEM learning. It is critical that research with young children focuses on the process of doing science, while appreciating that the process of scientific thinking and learning are culturally constructed and situated. Specifically, as researchers and educators, we must do better at contextualizing children's scientific thinking process as it unfolds in their daily lives—with their peers, families, and in their cultural communities. Specific studies highlighted throughout this essay seek to document and promote family, community, and teaching practices that are effective for supporting young children's learning and explorations in STEM across our increasingly diverse society. We propose opportunities for future researchers to focus their efforts, including the following: more multidisciplinary work that includes synthesis across disciplines and methodological traditions; more diverse samples and investigative teams, such that cultural insiders are full participants; more descriptive studies focusing on the everyday experiences in children's lives that promote the development of scientific thinking and practices; and practice-informed research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1655-1669
JournalScience Education
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2023


  • early childhood
  • sociocultural research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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