The water state changes in 5-6 years old children's thinking: the construction of a precursor model

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Kambouri-Danos, Maria
Ravanis, Konstantinos
Jameau, Alain
Boilevin, Jean-Marie
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Children’s everyday activities enable them to learn some science even before entering preschool education and children bring these ideas with them when entering education settings. Some of these ideas, or else mental representations, may not be compatible with what is generally accepted by the scientific community. This paper presents the results of an empirical study, focusing on the construction of a precursor model that can support children’s scientific learning, in relation to the phenomenon of change of the state of water. The research included 91 children aged 5–6 which participated in a specifically designed teaching intervention. The intervention lasted approximately 55 min and was conducted at eight stages, during which children’s predictions and explanations for simple cases of change of the state of water were recorded. The analysis of children’s responses suggests that the specific teaching intervention can have a positive effect on children’s thinking in relation to the change of the state of water. A considerable number of pre-schoolers were able to take advantage of their involvement in the teaching intervention and construct a stable precursor model to support the development of their understanding, in relation to the water change of state phenomenon. It appears that precursor models can function in the minds of young children as intermediaries between mental representations of reality and scientific knowledge and prepare children’s thinking, forming the basis for a cognitive path towards cognitive processing and the formation of more complex models. The proposed intervention is compatible with the model used in science education and it is proposed to be used in moderation and should not replace children’s learning through play.
Precursor model, Preschool age, Early years science, Misconceptions, Water cycle