In a new Spanish study, researchers discovered that when young children (ages 4 to 7) were asked to create spontaneous drawings of plants, they demonstrated a clear understanding of the interdependent relationship between plants and animals.
According to the researchers, this suggests that concepts related to biology, the environment and sustainability can be easily incorporated into early education classrooms.
Throughout the last five years, the researchers from the University of the Basque Country have been investigating the extent of young children’s knowledge about the environment by studying their spontaneous drawings.
The researchers point out that the drawings of young children are closely linked to their thoughts and feelings. Therefore, analyzing such drawings is considered a valuable method for studying their conceptual development.
The research was conducted with 328 children (162 girls and 166 boys) at six schools (five in Bizkaia, and one in Burgos). Three of the schools are located in urban areas with more than 75,000 inhabitants and the rest are located in rural areas with a population of less than 6,000.
In the classroom, with the help of a puppet, the children were told that the puppet did not know anything about the plant world, so it was suggested to them that they could use their drawings to explain to the puppet what plants are. Each child was given 10 crayons.
In 15 minutes or less, each child expressed his/her way of understanding plant reality, first through drawing and then through coloring. The children were not given any indication or additional explanation about plants, animals or the interactions between them.
When the drawings were analyzed, the researchers found that the children correctly associated the animal world with the plant world. For example, they depicted animals eating plants and also identified and distinguished between living beings and inert objects such as the sun, clouds or vehicles.
In addition, the older the children were, the more frequently they drew animals and plants in an interdependent relationship.
Thus, the findings show that in the early years of education, children are already capable of distinguishing between fundamental biological concepts that pave the way towards understanding natural phenomena. Therefore, teaching concepts relating to biology or sustainability could be incorporated into pre-kindergarten and early primary education.
“By way of conclusion, it can be said that the evidence we provide is consistent with the assumption that by the age of eight children start to understand the interdependence between living beings in ecosystems,” said José Domingo Villarroel, researcher at the Faculty of Education in Bilbao.
“This circumstance is an opportunity for them to reflect on the ecological connections between living beings, including human beings. It is an educational aim that, without doubt, should exert a significant impact on environmental thinking.”
Source: University of the Basque Country