Exploring preschool children's understanding of feeding relationships within food chains

Allen, Michael (2015) Exploring preschool children's understanding of feeding relationships within food chains. In: ESERA2015; 31 Aug - 04 Sep 2015, Helsinki, Finland. (Unpublished)


It is well established that citizens’ understanding of ecology is vital for the successful conservation of the environment. However, young children’s comprehension of simple ecology concepts has been shown to be limited, or even incorrect. The intention of the study is to address a current gap in our knowledge about how children aged 3-5 years understand and learn specific ecological concepts. Structured interviews explore children’s ideas about the feeding relationships of species within six different food chains, investigating their concepts of carnivorous, herbivorous, omnivorous, predator and prey behaviour. Additionally, we examine understandings of the effects of disappearing species within a food chain and the influence of these changes on other organisms within the same food chain. Data collection is ongoing and will be completed by March 2015, though some early findings from piloting are included in this submission. The recent inclusion of key ecological concepts into the English Key Stage 1 Science National Curriculum provides a golden opportunity for teachers to enable young children to correctly learn these often difficult ideas, so laying firm foundations for the later study of ecology, and ultimately helping them to become more scientifically literate and environmentally-aware citizens. The current study would play a vital part in the process, providing a starting point for the planning and delivery of appropriate and effective pedagogies by early years practitioners. The study forms part of a longer term project that assesses the biological knowledge and understanding of preschool children.

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