What Is the Greenhouse Effect? Fifth Graders’ Ideas

By Sirpa Kärkkäinen, Tuula Keinonen, Jari Kukkonen, Antti Hurri and Päivi Vesala.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In this paper we focus on pupils’ preconceptions and learning about the greenhouse effect. The aim of this study was to explore fifth-graders’ ideas (N=20) on greenhouse effect in the context of science education at the primary school level. The pupils’ views were examined in the context of chemistry, where their study focused on atmosphere, clouds, carbon cycle as well as the greenhouse effect by the simulation. Research data was collected by drawings and written notes about greenhouse effect before and after the instructional intervention. Firstly, pupils collected some information about the structure and portions of different gases of atmosphere and after that they modelled the greenhouse effect by the aid of simulation. Both the pre- and post-intervention data, pupils’ drawings and writings, was analyzed qualitatively.
In the pre-intervention drawings and writings, pupils already knew some gases and compounds related to greenhouse effect as well as some causes for the greenhouse effect. After the instruction roughly half of the pupils correctly noted the relationship between an increased greenhouse effect and changes in weather patterns. They also understood better the connection between different types of radiation, gases, and the affect of clouds to the greenhouse effect. This result seems to support the valuable influence of simulation as a learning method.

Keywords: Primary Science, Greenhouse Effect, Drawings

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp.415-430. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.556MB).

Dr. Sirpa Kärkkäinen

Lecturer, Department of Applied Education, University of Joensuu, Joensuu, Finland

Studies biology and geography at University of Joensuu; Master degree in biology; studies in education at the University of Joensuu; PhD in Education 2004 current interest; science education.

Prof. Tuula Keinonen

Professor, Department of Applied Education, University of Joensuu, Joensuu, Finland

Jari Kukkonen

Senior Assistant, Department of Applied Education, University of Joensuu, Joensuu, Finland

Antti Hurri

Student, Department of Applied Education, University of Joensuu, Joensuu, Finland

Päivi Vesala

Teacher, Training School at the University of Joensuu, University of Joensuu, Joensuu, Finland


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