Early concepts in ecology: Exploring early years children’s understanding of some key ecological concepts

Allen, Michael (2015) Early concepts in ecology: Exploring early years children’s understanding of some key ecological concepts. In: Annual Festival of Learning 2015; 12-16 Jan 2015, Kingston, U.K.. (Unpublished)


Background and rationale. Despite the importance of an ecologically-literate populace, the environmental understandings of children have been shown to be limited or incorrect (e.g. Shepardson, Wee, Priddy & Harbor, 2007). However, the recent publication of a new Primary Science National Curriculum (Department for Education, 2013), which was implemented in schools in September 2014, may go some way toward addressing these problems. Ecology topics that were previously taught to older children during Key Stage 2 (ages 7-11 years) will in future appear in the Key Stage 1 curriculum (ages 5-7 years). This will ensure, in state maintained schools at least, that key ecological concepts will be accessed by much younger children than is presently the case. One likely outcome is that young children will become more environmentally aware than was previously the case. With the new curriculum in mind it will be necessary to elicit key ecological concepts of preschool children in order to determine their knowledge and understanding upon arrival at Key Stage 1, which is the intention of the current study. Previous research with Key Stage 1 and 2 children has revealed misconceptions that hinder proper understanding of key ecological ideas (Allen, 2014), so there is a clear need to ascertain whether these or any other misconceptions are held by younger, preschool children. No survey that has explored the ecological ideas of children in the early years presently exists in the literature. The research is underpinned by the tenets of constructivist child development theory (e.g. Eimas, 1994) which holds that infants and adults alike access precisely the same processes with differences in performance being solely attributed to the amount of source information that is currently available to each individual.

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