Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

More Than Clocks and Calendars: The Construction of Timekeepers by Eleven Kindergarten Children in Mexico and the United States

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

More Than Clocks and Calendars: The Construction of Timekeepers by Eleven Kindergarten Children in Mexico and the United States

Article excerpt

Abstract. The purpose of this qualitative study was to investigate timekeeping constructs of 4- and 5-year-old children in Campeche, Mexico, and North Carolina, United States, as well as the sociocultural conditions that shaped changes in their ideas about timekeeping (methods to mark and measure time) before, during, and after their kindergarten year. Eleven children constituted the case studies. The children entered public school kindergarten during the fall of the research period and had no prior long-term institutional experience, such as preschool or child care. Data were collected in three phases over the course of one year through: 1) semi-structured interviews with children, parents, teachers, and education administrators; 2) semi-structured activities with children, including drawings of time-related objects and concepts, verbal descriptions of time-related photographic images from the home and classroom, and problem-solving constructions; 3) observational field notes of the homes, communities, schools, and physical surroundings with a special emphasis on time indicators; 4) classroom observations; 5) the completion of a classroom environmental rating scale focused on time; and 6) a review of national, state, and local education policies affecting time in public schools. Data were analyzed within and across cases, sites, and phases to look for commonalities and differences in the children's timekeeping constructs. Three methods for marking and measuring time emerged from the data: biological, environmental, and conventional timekeepers. Each of these timekeeping methods proved to be relative to individual children, as well as replete with common features across cultural, geographical, and biological boundaries. Environmental cues and activities not ordinarily considered timekeepers proved to be more temporally significant than anticipated, and formal school instruction was sometimes out of step with home and community practices. The results of this research suggest that many critical ideas about timekeeping change during a child's first year of formal schooling as children learn to adhere to external schedules, which may constrain or enhance their ability to fully engage in school activities.

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Each day, numerous internal and external cues are used to construct complex, interwoven clusters of temporal information that give each of us a sense of our place in time. These clusters are referred to as temporal identity (1) (Hardin, 2001). When children enter kindergarten, their existing temporal constructs are challenged in new ways by the institutional environment of public schooling. For example, children learn to divide their school day according to specific activities (e.g., journal time, center time, recess) and by rhythmic biological processes, such as eating, sleeping, and using the bathroom; these needs become entrained by superimposed schedules. The complexities of temporal adjustments, particularly timekeeping (methods used to mark and measure time), for kindergarten children are more often than not ignored. External timekeeping systems, however, especially clock time, regulate how families organize their lives, curriculum and instructional practices, school scheduling policies, and the opportunities children have to explore, comprehend, and master learning (Gandara, 2000; Kane, 1994; National Education Commission on Time and Learning, 1993).

Changes in methods used to mark and measure time result from the interplay between individuals and their sociocultural context. Research demonstrates that sociocultural factors, such as family structure, community traditions, degree of industrialization, climate, and cultural values, as well as biological factors, such as brain functioning, age, health, and circadian rhythms, all contribute to the construction of temporal concepts (Block, 1990; Colombo & Richman, 2002; Ezzeii, 2002; Gell, 1996; Hill, Block, & Buggie, 2000; Jarrett & Burton, 1999; Levine, 1997; Pollack, 1999; Soulsby & Fraser, 2001; Takahashi & Hoffman, 1995). …

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