Osborne, Jonathan, Pam Wadsworth, Paul Black, and John Meadows

The Earth in Space

Liverpool University Press
ISBN 0-85323-008-0
Price: 7.00

Grade focus: K-2, 3-5

This report is one of a series developed by the Primary SPACE Project (Science Processes and Concept Exploration), based jointly at the Department of Education, University of Liverpool, and the Center for Educational Studies, King's College, London, UK. The series describes studies conducted by researchers and teachers to understand elementary school children's ideas in particular science concept areas and how students modify their ideas as the result of brief teaching interventions.

This report contains: (1) a summary of previous research into children's ideas about earth and space; (2) a description of student ideas before they received any formal experiences relating to these concepts; (3) a description of the teaching intervention that was intended to encourage students to develop their ideas; (4) a description of student ideas after the teaching intervention; and (5) a summary of the research findings and implications for grade placement of the ideas explored in the curriculum. Appendices include brief descriptions of the interview tasks that were used to explore student ideas, and of the activities within the teaching interventions.

The research specifically explored student understanding of time and knowledge of distances, student conceptions of the shape of the earth, student explanations of day and night, and student knowledge of the daily movement of the sun and related phenomena. Some findings include: Students' knowledge of astronomic phenomena generally increased with age. In many instances, the intervention had a positive effect in their knowledge and understanding. For example, the proportions of students who thought that the earth moves about the sun in a year or explained that night was accounted for by the spin of the earth rather than the movement of the sun increased considerably after the intervention. Students' knowledge of the daily trajectory of the sun across the sky and the variation of the sun's altitude from winter to summer was poor for all age groups before and after the intervention. In addition, both before and after the intervention, few students had a sense of distances in the solar system or even between places on earth.

Other titles in the series include: Evaporation and Condensation; Growth; Light; Materials; Processes of Life; Rocks, Soil, and Weather; and Sound.