Lightbulbs. Cereal. Sandwiches.
This is what some kindergarten students cited as factors necessary for plant growth.
This and other interesting insights into what young students think about plants are revealed in Understanding Early Elementary Children’s Conceptual Knowledge of Plant Structure and Function through Drawings by Janice L. Anderson, Jane P. Ellis and Alan M. Jones.
Anderson et al. (2014) chose to investigate the conceptual knowledge of plants of K-1 students because, at this age, children are busily constructing explanations about what they see. The authors chose to analyze students’ drawings of plants for three reasons: 1) drawings enable young children to express what they cannot articulate verbally, 2) drawings offer insight into what children think, and
3) drawings offer insight into children’s stage of development with respect to conceptual thinking (Anderson et al., 2014).
The research team investigated student knowledge of plant structure and function specifically. They did this by creating a three-stage investigation. The data-collecting tools they used were a Draw-A-Plant instrument (based on the Draw-A-Scientist instrument), a plant survey, and interviews (Anderson et al., 2014). Study participants were K-1 students (n=182) from an elementary school in the southeastern United States.
Anderson et al. (2014) explain their research methods in detail, including how they coded student drawings. You can read about these methods in their paper. Today I provide only general insight into their findings.
Anderson et al. (2014) observed that:
- Young students have some basic understanding of plant structure and function.
- Young students have misconceptions about plants.
- Some teachers spend more time discussing plants with students than others.
- Some students learn about plants outside of the classroom.
- Flowers and flowering plants are drawn most often.
- Young students can identify the simple needs of plants.
- Young students often exclude soil from their drawings.
- Students sometimes demonstrate more plant knowledge in conversation than through drawing.
- There is a lack of advanced conceptual knowledge about plant structure and function in young students.
- Student interviews help researchers interpret their findings.
- Students drawings provide insight into students’ life experiences.
- There is a need to involve students in more inquiry-based activities about plant structure and function.
The paper by Anderson et al. (2014) is available for free through an Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons License. Click on the link below to download a PDF copy of the article that includes supplementary materials used in this project.
Anderson, Janice L. and Jane P. Ellis, Alan M. Jones. 2014. Understanding Early Elementary Children’s Conceptual Knowledge of Plant Structure and Function through Drawings. CBE – Life Sciences Education. 13(3): 375-386. Retrieved from http://www.lifescied.org/content/13/3/375.full.pdf+html?with-ds=yes