2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 8-6
Presentation Time: 9:30 AM


MARTÍNEZ-ÁLVAREZ, Patricia, Arts and Humanitis, Teachers College, Columbia University, 106 Morningside Dr., #7, NA, New York, NY 10027

As children navigate different social spaces, they are exposed to knowledge and ways of thinking impacting their repertoires of practice (Gutiérrez & Rogoff, 2003). Furthermore, children who come from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds possess funds of knowledge (Moll, Amanti, Neff, & González, 1992) for learning geoscience rooted in their transnational and multilingual experiences.

Synthesis of local cultural knowledge and the study of local place are emphasized in place-based geoscience learning (Semken, 2005). With children who come from immigrant families though, the study of the local includes and it’s necessarily impacted by their transnational knowledge (Author, 2014). It is my assertion in this study that place-based learning with bilingual children of immigrant descent is most effective when the local and the transnational boundaries are permeable.

Thus, in this proposal I share the findings of a qualitative research study exploring the following research question: What funds of knowledge do bilingual children of Latino immigrant descent possess for learning geoscience?

To answer these questions I interviewed a group of 24 first and second grade Latino bilinguals, who were participating in an afterschool program emphasizing STEM learning. The focus of the afterschool was to explore the participants’ ideas around what scientists do and in particular, their geological understandings.

While there was a larger body of data, for this particular proposal, I analyzed the data from individual interviews with the children, and their descriptions while looking at photographs of landscapes. and from audio data documenting the 10 afterschool instructional sessions. The data was transcribed and translated from Spanish to English. Two researchers analyzed the data using NVivo software by coding for students’ ideas and language in relation to geoscience.

Findings indicate bilingual children of Latino immigrant descent possess an array of knowledge, which can be integrated in the teaching and learning of geoscience. Specifically, children demonstrated: (1) The ability to recognize science in their daily lives, (2) advanced scientific vocabulary (i.e., valleys, lakes and canyons); and (3) a vast variety of transnational experiences with bodies of water and other geological features.