Schussler, Elisabeth E. , Link-Perez, Melanie A. , Dollo, Vanessa H. , Weber, Kirk M. .
Plant Parts and Animal Wholes: What Students Could Learn From Elementary Science Textbooks.
Studies of how elementary teachers in local schools teach about plants led to the recognition that textbooks are heavily relied upon as the foundation for student understanding of botanical concepts. This observation, coupled with the knowledge that textbooks are often biased towards animal information, spurred us to critically examine the content of the textbooks that supply student life science knowledge. For this study we selected a state-specific, nationally syndicated series of textbooks used by local elementary schools. Our goal was to record the textbook information presented to students about plants and animals and generate hypotheses about what students would be learning based on this content. We recorded our data as summaries of the Life Science section of each textbook from the kindergarten to the fifth grade level. This information was then placed into an Excel spreadsheet in categories (reproduction, growth needs, etc.) to visualize student progression of knowledge through elementary school. We discovered plant parts are presented at every grade level while animal parts are only mentioned in third grade, potentially fragmenting student understanding of plants as whole organisms. A repeated focus on plant reproduction with no animal equivalent effectively “neuters” animals and uses plants as elementary sexual education. This focus limits discussion of plant types and adaptations—topics that are explored in detail for animals. Animal concepts are taught through repetition and gradual introduction of new concepts, while plant knowledge progresses in leaps with less repetition. Our findings support the idea that the way plant and animal concepts are presented contribute to students’ lack of interest and understanding about plants. We recommend a new approach be taken to teach about plants in elementary textbooks. Plants should be introduced as wholes and a more gradual progression of knowledge should be presented allowing students to develop a broader understanding of plants.
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1 - Miami University, Department of Botany, Oxford, Ohio, 45056, USA
K-5 plant science curriculum
Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Location: Boulevard A/Hilton
Date: Monday, July 9th, 2007
Time: 8:45 AM