Science & Education

, Volume 16, Issue 3–5, pp 267–289 | Cite as

Transformation through Language Use: Children’s Spontaneous Metaphors in Elementary School Science

  • Britt Jakobson
  • Per-Olof Wickman


This article examines the role elementary school children’s spontaneous metaphors play in learning science. The data consists of tape recordings of about 25 h from five different schools. The material is analysed using a practical epistemology analysis and by using Dewey’s ideas on the continuity and transformation of experience. The results show the rich and varied meanings that children put into their spontaneous metaphors. Their metaphors deal with facts as well as norms and aesthetics in relation to the science content taught and they influence learning both through what is made salient, as well as through their relations to the children’s possibilities of proceeding with their undertakings. Often one and the same metaphor encompassed all these cognitive, aesthetic and normative aspects at the same time. It is discussed how this rich meaning can be cultured in a productive way, and how the children’s spontaneous metaphors, with all their relations, can be used to enhance conceptual learning and also learning about the nature of metaphor use in science. Through their connection with various experiences of the children, it is also shown how children’s spontaneous metaphors have the potential to enliven and humanise the subject.


Dewey elementary school learning metaphor primary school science 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Curriculum Studies and CommunicationStockholm Institute of EducationStockholmSweden

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