Essay on Children's Knowledge of the Structure of the Earth

Published: 2021-07-19
921 words
4 pages
8 min to read
Wesleyan University
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People need not share the same opinions as others. However, everyone ought to be respectful of the next persons opinion. Everyone is entitled to an opinion concerning everything and just because someone elses opinion differs from yours does not make them wrong or make you right. People have different ways of viewing something and perspectives on different matters. The opinions and concepts could be based on their experiences, education or even imaginations and this explains the variation. One area that people have had differing opinions in is the scientific knowledge of the structure of the earth during childhood. While growing up, children have very limited information about the earth as they spend most of their time in confined locations and under the watch of parents or guardians. With age and education, this is bound to change, and the changes are not uniform from one child to the next one. There are a couple of factors that influence the perspectives of children on the earths structure.

The study is of importance especially the ones that are directly concerned or tasked with the responsibility of raising the children. As parents and guardians, it is important to know the childrens mental model of the structure of the earth as it says a lot about their education and creativity as well. The research is also important as it allows the parents and guardians to be able to see the world through the eyes of the children. Therefore, it becomes easier to explain and illustrate some things when one is at their level of understanding.

The children develop a mental model of the earth structures before being taught the standard scientific theory. The childrens mental models were quite related and followed a certain trend despite never having received any formal education on the same. The similarity in mental models among children is interesting, and their naive knowledge though commonly disregarded has some coherence in it. By the time a child is six years, they have an idea that the earth is spherical and some in the industrialized countries even know that it orbits the sun. How they acquire this knowledge remains unaccounted for, and it is considered counter-intuitive (Markovits & Barrouillet, 2002). The theoretical perspectives of children on mental models differ significantly, and it remains a mystery to date. Some research suggests that the opinion is obtained on culturally transmitted information (Wagenmakers & Farrell, 2004).

Moreover, there is a plethora of research that has been done to ascertain the relevance and validity of childrens knowledge of the earth. The concern raised usually seeks to distinguish coherence from fragmentation. Some theories claim that the childrens concepts are organized consistently and that the concepts are derived from the daily activities and thinking. Therefore, it becomes quite difficult to alter their concepts. On the other hand, the theories that suggest that the concepts are fragmented stipulates that children obtain the scientific knowledge in pieces forming a loose connection on the structure of the earth. The fragmentation side maintains that the small, self-explanatory pieces of knowledge are drawn from everyday experience (Wellman & Gelman, 1998).

Furthermore, Vosniadou and Brewer conducted a study in search of answers and came up with the following findings. First, they asserted that a childs everyday activities had a lot to do with their mental model of the structure of the earth. Partly, that also explains the reason that there is a great variance in the models as the daily experience are different in different children. The intuitive knowledge of children aids in finding the missing pieces and that way they formulate rough explanations of natural phenomena. According to the study, out of the 60 children who participated, 54 drew a circle to represent the shape of the earth. Sixteen children suggested that the earth had a definite edge that one could fall off from. Similarly, 23 stated that one had to look up to see the earth (Vosniadou & Brewer, 1992).

In contrast, Nobes and his colleagues refuted the claim that children think that the world is flat. In their study, Nobes and company suggested that all children are initially neutral on any theory. Therefore, they neither oppose nor support any theory as their minds are blank and open to any new ideas. With time, they gather different information gradually forming a consolidated opinion from the fragments (Nobes, Martin, & Panagiotaki, 2005). If such children acquire accurate fragments of cultural information, there are more likely to have the coherent scientific theory of the earths structure relatively earlier.

The primary aim of this study is to advance the debate of childrens knowledge of the structure of the earth. The dependent variables that will be used in this research are two: gender and age. The number of children that will be used in the research is 735 aged between 5 to 12 years. The results will be recorded in a table and statistical methods of mean, median, and mode used to come with substantial findings.


Markovits, H., & Barrouillet, P. (2002). The development of conditional reasoning: A mental model approach. Developmental Review, 22, 536

Nobes, G., Martin, A. E., & Panagiotaki, G. (2005). The development of scientific knowledge of the earth. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 23, 4764.

Vosniadou, S., & Brewer, W. F. (1992). Mental models of the earth: A study of conceptual change in childhood. Cognitive Psychology, 24, 535585.

Wagenmakers, E-J., & Farrell, S. (2004). AIC model selection using Akaike weights. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 11, 192196.

Wellman, H. M., & Gelman, S. A. (1998). Knowledge acquisition in foundational domains. In Handbook of child psychology. In W. Damon (Ed.). Cognition, perception, and language (Vol. 2, pp. 523573). New York: John Wiley.

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