How ecoliterate is a five year old? Investigating the effects of teaching intervention on kindergarten children's understanding of ecological concepts
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AbstractThis thesis is about the ecoliteracy of young children. The study is aimed at determining young children’s understanding of ecology as they begin their journey through the school system. More specifically, the thesis addresses a perceived gap in the current literature regarding young children’s knowledge and understanding of ecological concepts and its implications for the teaching of science in the New South Wales curriculum. Young children’s learning of scientific concepts is widely underestimated; this includes complex concepts of ecoliteracy. The research investigated levels of ecoliteracy in kindergarten children, how a teaching intervention can affect their ecoliteracy, and what factors promote enhanced ecoliteracy. A total of 25 kindergarten students from two schools participated in the study. Data were collected by means of analysing children’s drawings and interviews. A constructivist theoretical framework formed the groundwork for presenting the focus of the study and for interpreting the results of the data. Practitioner-researcher involvement included development of materials, implementing the teaching intervention, and conducting the study. The results revealed that kindergarten children had a moderate level of ecoliteracy prior to the intervention, that their ecoliteracy was significantly improved after the intervention, and that they were able to retain and maintain this newly acquired knowledge. This shows that targeted teaching activities can promote enhanced ecoliteracy in young children. Whilst their development was considerably varied, a general pattern emerged that young children’s conceptual understanding increased following the teaching intervention. This suggests that certain aspects of the intervention contributed to children’s enhanced ecoliteracy and holds clear implications for educators in teaching young children science.