Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Effects of a Food Project on Children's Categorization Skills

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Effects of a Food Project on Children's Categorization Skills

Article excerpt

Categorization is an adaptive feature of cognition that enables us to reply quickly and properly to characteristics of our environment (Pollak & Kistler, 2002). If we respond to every object that we encounter as if it were unique, the complexity of our environment would overwhelm us (Markman, 1989). There are some category types that children may use while classifying objects around them. Taxonomic categories comprise conceptual links of objects according to similarity and common properties that are shared by the objects in a hierarchical system (e.g., terrier, dog, domestic animal, and mammal; Di Giacomo, De Federicis, Pistelli, Fiorenzi, & Passafiume, 2012). Script categories include items that play the same role in a routine or event such as bath time or a birthday party. What unites them are their roles in the same routine activity. For example, an egg and a sausage are in the same script category because they share the same role in the same context (being eaten at breakfast) but do not share the same properties. Another category type children may use in their daily lives is evaluative categories. The items in evaluative categories are classified into positive and negative groups. For example, items can be classified as safe or dangerous, or healthy or unhealthy (Nguyen & Murphy, 2003).

The traditional view about categorization states that children and adults make categorizations in different ways. According to this view, children first tend to formulate script or thematic categories and then these categories are replaced by taxonomic categories in the period after preschool, including primary school (Greenfield & Scott, 1986; Smiley & Brown, 1979). On the other hand, Nguyen and Murphy (2003) found that taxonomic, script, and evaluative categories start to develop simultaneously in the time between three to six years. Furthermore, in a recent study, Aslan (2011) found that even 6-year-old children were still in the process of learning taxonomic, script, and evaluative categories. Aslan argued that the development of children's categorization skills in preschool should be encouraged.

Nowadays, various educational models are used in order to develop children's skills, and to allow them to perceive and identify questions and answers for themselves. (Bicakci, 2009). One of these models is project-based education. Project-based education is an instructional model that aims to ensure that children understand the world they live in, and encourage them to use their skills in various situations with informal and open-ended activities (Katz & Chard, 2000). The main characteristic of project work is that it is study focused on finding answers to the questions about a topic suggested by the children or the teacher (Katz, 1994).

Project work consists of three distinct phases. In the initial phase of the project work (planning and beginning) the teacher and the children conduct a few discussion sessions to select the topic to be investigated. The second phase (implementation) consists of direct investigation, including field trips to investigation sites, objects found there (e.g., a plane, a typewriter, a baseball), or events. This phase is considered the heart of the project. In the implementation phase, children are investigating, drawing from observation, constructing models, observing closely, recording findings, exploring, predicting, and discussing their new understandings (Chard, 1992). The last phase (culminating and debriefing events) includes preparing and presenting reports of results in various ways such as through dramatic presentations and exhibitions (Katz, 1994).

Many preschool and kindergarten teachers use units, themes, or learning centers such as a block area, or music and movement area, as a way of organizing their teaching activities. The project approach is different from these traditional methods in various aspects. First, project-based education provides more opportunities for children to ask questions and enables them to take the initiative to investigate, unlike in traditional learning methods. …

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