The earth is geographically planet three from the star sun. The earth is the main astronomical object that supports life. There are several theories that explain the origin of the earth and other numerous methods that have helped the astronauts to determine the shape of the earth. All the research and theories all end up in a conclusion that the earth is spherical in shape. The research was carried out on elementary school children, where first, third and fifth-grade students had to answer various questions in reference to the shape of the earth (Wellman, 1990, p. 57-66). A different opinion was obtained from the children and as research ion cognitive science shows, both children and adults have that instinctive understanding other than the knowledge of the world which bases from the experience they have.
An argument between naive theories and fragmented knowledge leads to the conclusion that children knowledge has significant impacts on the daily experiences and understanding of the various concepts of the earth. Researchers believe that the intuitive knowledge that children have contains concepts which have vital impacts in relation to the real-life experiences. The information that children have is seen as coherent and contains systematic ideas which by far deserve to be called a theory. In various cases, the idea of adults holding systematic concepts based on their instinctive beliefs and this influences even their behaviors. Researchers vary in ideas and others believe that naïve physics does not consist of system concepts and hence it does not meet the qualities that are required to become a theory (Wellman, 1990, p.13-17). Researchers differ in their understanding of how children acquire their knowledge. There are basically two groups of researchers according to their view on the conceptualization of the intuitive knowledge which is obtained from childhood.
To begin with, there are researchers viewing the children’s knowledge as fragmented and systematic. Researchers who have these view refer to the process of children acquiring knowledge as a process which involves the collection and unification of the small fragmented concepts into one consistent whole. The second group of researchers refers the intuitive knowledge consisting of a theory that has vital concepts on an adult understanding of the Earth and getting to the basis of the experience that human go through (Wellman, 1990,p. 33-37).
There are the majority of questions that are left unsolved about the precise nature of the instinctive concepts and the process of acquiring knowledge. Beginning with the fact that it is not clear whether the instinctive knowledge in children cannot be precisely characterized as consistent knowledge or fragmented knowledge, this brings diversity among the researchers. It is also not clear how the theories relate and how they change during the process of knowledge acquisition until adulthood. Observational astronomy contributes greatly to the knowledge of the children (Kalogiannidou & Vosniadou, 1987, p.12-14). This involves a much bigger project during the investigation as it is more precise in accordance to what the children see and get the instinctive belief. The results obtained from the children come from relative concepts which are relatively rich compared to other methods of obtaining information from the children.
A study in mental models of the earth shows that children have the tendency to believe in their made up theory about the shape of the earth such that when introduced to the universally accepted facts or idea of earth being spherical they tend to modify their theory of it such that it is partially true what new knowledge introduced suggests (Wellman, 1990, p. 43-47). whereas their knowledge and beliefs do not actually vanish completely but actually have a strong base in the mind of that child when understanding the new theory introduced such that they create an alternative notion by trying to reconcile information from adults while matching it with their original naïve conception of a flat earth.
Hypothesis formulated for this kind of research include that children start learning that the earth is flat, A statement that is backed by day to day gained experience and research about children’s ideas (Wellman, 1990, p. 43-49). Another formulation suggests possible misunderstanding in grasping by children about the earth is a large circular body surrounded by clear mass as that is not backed up by experienced .oppositions have since risen with some ideas of earth being a flat view.
A notion reported about children trying to understand the day/night cycle who had been taught about the rotation of earth interpreted using the conceptual structures that the earth is a layer lake in that it contains a plain earth in America below another plain earth Europe (Wellman, 1990,p. 107-112). At night the sun drops via European to the low American layer thus the kids concluded with both their belief of a plain earth and that of the grown ups that when its night in America, in Europe its daytime.
Methods used to conduct such research with children is asking questions and deduce drawings. questions aim at verifying the base of such knowledge and discovering any possible misconceptions.
These being accrued distinct constraints that lead to children developing a predominant misconception as from when they are young and find very hard to change despite adults efforts to bring the actual culturally accepted facts –point home. The human cognitive apparatus is what drives the inconsistent beliefs in children as they are perpetrated and developed from the day to day experiences in their lives (Kalogiannidou & Vosniadou, 1987,p.111-117). Despite the wide and convincing exposure of the earth being spherical, such children continue with created presuppositions in them such that they still believe the earth is very rectangle-like, disc-like among others. The presuppositions determine the types of mental shapes of earth that children create and believe.
The rectangular earth model and disc model are brought about by the presupposition that the part on which human live on earth is plain. The dual earth model is believed to have raised round earth on the sky and a plain ground for people to live. Their hollow sphere model is believed to hold people on a plain ground inside the spherical earth (Ortony & Vosniadou, 1989,p.37-44). The plain mental model sphere perceives earth as flat and thick pancake, circular on sides, but there are a plain upper and lower that human live. Children perceive flatness in terms of an extension of a ground along the same plane and are, therefore, a presupposition.
The presupposition of unsupported things falling start from an early age of six months who are sensitive to such notions. It constrains some models that brings out a falling earth being supported by ground and water that includes rectangular, disc and dual earth. Other children believe that the objects and people on earth are supported thus they can survive in a spherical world without falling thus giving rise to the hollow sphere mental model (Ortony & Vosniadou, 1989,p 67-71). This presupposition, however, doesn’t affect the flattened sphere model due to its flat top and bottom.
Initial Mental Models of the Earth
This refers to the first forms created by young pre-exposed children to any culturally accepted information about the earth only limited by the two presuppositions namely earth is flat and unsupported things falling. According to samples done to preschool children, they conceptualize a flat ground that human live on, or an edged plain ground of different natures thus giving birth to the rectangle, square, disc, flattened mental models (Brewer & Vosniadou, 1989,p. 23-25).
Synthetic Mental shapes of the Earth.
This applies where children have already been exposed to the grown up explanation of instictive acceptable information and fact about the earth being the sphere and thus make efforts to reconcile with their already existing presuppositions in lieu of retaining most of (Brewer & Vosniadou, 1989,p 77-86). This applies in the case of double earth mental model where kids still acknowledge the earth being plain, the ground goes way down below the earth. This makes things fall in a low ground direction. Children go ahead to think that grown ups normally refers to a certain object when they call it round earth.
The synthetic mental model also shows progression into advanced synthetic models due to the possibility of the revision of presuppositions. This happens when a child starts to understand gravity works in a spherical world, and how possible it is to exist people in a spherical earth. Dual earth synthetic mental model requires no revision of presupposition thus becoming the simplest. Hollow sphere model accommodates revision of presupposition of support of ground but that one of a flat ground and people needing to be supported still remains (Ortony & Vosniadou, 1989,p. 66-71). The hollow sphere mental model accommodates both the spherical shape of the earth and the presupposition of unsupported things falling and flat ground.
The plain sphere mental shape appears to be more complex because it accommodates the fact that gravity enables humans on the sphere but kids still acknowledge that the world is still plain so they assume that the spherical earth is flat at the top and bottom so people kind of life in the flattened areas.
Adding to what the children see and experience every day, the questions are casual which help to get complex questions. Observational astronomy is, therefore, a field during the research models which provides adequate information to relate to children knowledge and create theories. The history of the shape of the earth has hit many milestones until determining that it is spherical and this fact remained motionless (Vosniadou & Brewer, 1989,p.98-111). The studies that have been done during the present periods focuses on examining the change in the children’s thinking about the shape of the earth. The research also focuses on other observations that the children view.
Science educators have carried out research about the children view of the shape of the earth and they have come to the conclusion that the knowledge that they have holds a lot of concepts. There is a various mental model that researchers have come up with after interrogating children about the shape of the earth. The investigation has resulted in the realization of five major mental models that children come up with different from the spherical shape of the earth. The main shapes that the children named included rectangular earth, the disc earth, the dual earth, the hollow sphere and the flattened sphere. The children who think the earth as a rectangular shaped object have the instinct that the earth is flat and has a shape similar to that of a rectangle. The children who refer to the earth as disc shape mental model have their intuitive knowledge as the earth is a plain and a round object. The children who have the earth mental model as a hollow sphere conceptualize the earth as a spherical but the human live inside the sphere. The children with double earth concept believe that the earth is round and found up in the space. They believe that the flat ground found on top of the sky is the home to people (Brewer & Vosniadou, 1989,p. 76-81). The children who come up with earth mental model as a plain round model have instinct that the earth’s shape is similar to that of a thick pancake which is round on the sides and thick at the top with a flat bottom. These children believe that people live on the top side of the flattened sphere.
When the results of the investigation were analyzed and compared to the previous results, the present show that the children are now able to understand the shape of the earth. Elementary children had problems describing the shape of the earth and created various myths and misconceptions regarding the shape of the earth. The research shows that there are only a few main mental models that children come up with in reference to the shape of the earth. The research results, however, do not give clarity on whether the models constructed represent the precompiled theories and kept in the long term memory or they come up under the influence during the time when the question is asked. This is because some children expressed their views in a hurry and lucid as they were thinking on the spot (Wellman, 1990, p. 66-79). The fact that a large percentage of the children gave answers that relate to each other shows that there are consistent mental models that the draw in mind.
Statistics for frequency data for models of specific group of different ages shows that the instinctive believe of dual earth is the most minimal as the children age increases. Most of the kids believe in the sphere model but the values increase as their age increases. Flat sphere model of the earth follows with a larger number of kids believing in that shape comparing to the hollow sphere, disc earth and dual earth shape (Vosniadou & Brewer, 1989,p.8-11).
In conclusion, children form mental models that main base on the flattened surface and these are derived from their astronomical observation. The everyday experience that the children go through results in the development of the concept that the earth is a flat surface. The process of changing from thinking about the earth using the mental model to the using the reality as the earth being spherical is a slow steady and a gradual process and gives rise to other models. Children should interpret their presuppositions within a different platform (Wellman, 1990, 133-142).
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