Child, Youth, and Family Studies, Department of



Julia C. Torquati

Date of this Version



International Journal of Early Childhood Environmental Education, 2(1), pp 27-57


Published by NAAEE.


This paper describes the process of “scaffolding” as a teaching strategy in early childhood education, and demonstrates how scaffolding can promote children’s learning about the natural environment. Examples of scaffolding are provided from seventy-four running record observations made over a two-year period in a nature-based preschool program. Qualitative analysis examined the extent to which scaffolding was used to support children’s learning about nature; the types of scaffolding strategies used by teachers; whether high- and low-support strategies were used in specific types of situations; the effectiveness of scaffolding; and what children learned when teachers engaged them in scaffolding. Examples illustrate specific pedagogical strategies used in scaffolding. Scaffolding was used relatively frequently within the program (21% of events analyzed), and inferential questioning was the most frequently used strategy. Analysis did not reveal a pattern of high- or low-support strategies used in specific types of situations, but teachers flexibly used a variety of scaffolding strategies to support children’s learning about the natural environment. Preparation of physical and social environments for effective scaffolding is discussed, as well as the role of scaffolding in socializing children to engage in a culture of inquiry.