logo logo European Journal of Educational Research

EU-JER is is a, peer reviewed, online academic research journal.

Subscribe to

Receive Email Alerts

for special events, calls for papers, and professional development opportunities.


Publisher (HQ)

Eurasian Society of Educational Research
Eurasian Society of Educational Research
Christiaan Huygensstraat 44, Zipcode:7533XB, Enschede, THE NETHERLANDS
Eurasian Society of Educational Research
Christiaan Huygensstraat 44, Zipcode:7533XB, Enschede, THE NETHERLANDS
plant conception preschool and primary school pupils mental model drawings

Concepts of Plants Held by Young Brazilian Children: An Exploratory Study

Amauri Betini Bartoszeck , Claudete Rosa Cosmo , Bernadete Rocha da Silva , Sue Dale Tunnicliffe

Children from southern and northern Brazil have a basic knowledge of plants, which they observe during their everyday life. Children ages between 3 to.


Children from southern and northern Brazil have a basic knowledge of plants, which they observe during their everyday life. Children ages between 3 to 10 years old (kindergarten & primary school), but the majority of them in the age group of 4-5 (total 145) were asked to draw what they think is a plant (total sample=332). Afterwards, a equal number of boys and girls randomly chosen were interviewed individually (mix ability) to list plants they said they knew and where they had seen them. Then they were asked to give exemplars of the local plants which they had seen. These data from the exploratory study show that pupils are in touch with their environment and recognize plants that are part of it. The everyday experiences of these children in school and out of school, at home and in leisure activities with family and friends, contribute to their knowledge about plants and such knowledge is complemented in the preschool and primary school classes by appropriate teaching. Educational implications of these findings are discussed.

Keywords: Plant conception, preschool and primary school pupils, mental model, drawings

cloud_download PDF
Article Metrics


Anggoro, F. K., Waxman, S. R.,  and Medin, D. L.  (2008). Naming practices and the acquisition of key biological concepts. Evidence from English and Indonesian. Psychological Science, 19(4): 314-319.

Anning, A.,  Ring, K.  (2004). Making sense of children´s drawings. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Anning, A., Cullen, J., and Fleer, M. (2004). Early childhood education: society and culture. London: Sage.

Ashbrook, P. (2008). First explorations in flower anatomy. Science and Children, 45(8):18-19.

Azul, A. M., Reis, C. S.,  and Pimenta, M. C. (2007). Da semente ao fruto: à descoberta do mundo das plantas. Ciência Viva: Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Ensino Superior, Coimbra, Portugal. (From seed to fruit: discovery of the world of plants).

Bang, M., Medin, D., and Atran, S. (2007). Cultural mosaics and mental models of nature. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 1004(35): 13868-13874.

Barman, C. R., Stein, M., Barman, N. S., and McNair, S. (2002). Assessing students´ ideas about plants. Science & Children, 10(1): 25-29.

Barman, C. R., Stein, M., McNair, S., and Barman, N. S. (2006). Students´ ideas about plants & plant growth. The American Biology Teacher, 68(2):73-79.

Barraza, L. (2001). Environmental education in Mexican schools: the primary level. Journal of Environmental Education, 32(3): 31-36.

Barrett, M. D., Light, P. H. (1976). Symbolism   and intellectual realism in children´s drawings. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 46:198-202.

Bartoszeck, A. B.,  Silva, I. G. Da,  and Tunnicliffe, S. D. (2011). Brazilian children´s concept of bird: an exploratory study. Poster presented at the 9th Conference of the European Science Education Research Association (ESERA), Lyon,  France, September 5th-9th.

Bartoszeck, A. B., Tunnicliffe, S. D. (2013). What do early years children think is inside a tree. Journal of Emergent Science, Winter, 21-25.

Bebbington, A. (2005). The ability of A-level students to name plants. Journal of Biological Education, 39:63-67.

Bell, B.  (1981). What is a plant? Some  children´s ideas. New Zealand Science Teacher, 31(3):10-14.

Bianchi, L. (2000). So what do you think a plant is? Primary Science Review, 61:15-17.

Blanquet, E. (2010). Sciences à l´école, Côte jardin-le guide practique de l´enseignant. Nice : Éditions du Somnium. (Science at school, a practical guide in the kindergarten).

Boulter, C., Tunnicliffe, S. D., Reiss, and   M. J., Selles, S. (2004). The social relevance of pupils´responses to cues from the natural world. Proceedings from the Commonwealth Association for Science, Technology and Mathematics Educators Conference, Cyprus, April 15th -18th .

Bowker, R. (2004). Children´s perceptions of plants following their visit to the Eden Project. Research in Science & Technological Education, 22(2):227-243.

Braund, M. (1991). Children´s ideas in classifying animals. Journal of Biological Education, 25(2):103-110.

Brooks, M.  (2009). Drawing, visualization and young children´s exploration of “Big Ideas” International Journal of Science Education, 31(3):319-341.

Carneiro, S. M. M. (2001). A dimensão ambiental da educação escolar: enfoques de uma pesquisa diagnóstica no âmbito das séries iniciais de ensino. Teias, 2(4):1-12. (The environmental dimension in primary education).

Carrier, S. J. (2007). Gender  differences in attitudes toward environmental science. School Science and Mathematics. 107(7):271-279.

Carvalho, S. P., Klisys, A., and Augusto, S. [eds.] (2006). Bem-vindo, mundo! Criança, cultura e formação de educadores. São Paulo: Editora Peirópolis. (Welcome world! Children, culture and training educators).

Chang, N. (2012). The role of drawing in young children´s construction of science concepts. Early Childhood Education Journal, 40:187-193.

 Chen, S-H. , Ku, C-H.  (1999). Aboriginal children´s conceptions and alternative conceptions of plants.  Proc. Natl. Sci. Coun. ROD, 9(1).10-19.

Cherubini, M., Gash, H., and McCloughlin, T. (2008). The digital seed: an interactive toy for investigating plants. Journal of Biological Education, 42(3):123-129.

Christidou, V., Hatzinikita, V. (2005). Preschool children´s explanations of plant growth and rain formation: a comparative analysis. Research in Science Education, 36(3):187-210.

Colinvaux, D. (2004). Ciências e crianças: delineando caminhos de iniciação às ciências para crianças pequenas. Contrapontos, 4(1):105-123. (Science and children: an  outline for introducing small children to science).

Cox, M. (2005). The  pictorial world of the child. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Crepaldi, T., Filho, A. L. M., Silva, R., Silva, D., Teixeira, G.,  and Junior, B. L. (2011). O encontro da ciência e da tradição no Brasil: as plantas medicinais e as rezadeiras. Captar: ciência e ambiente para todos. 3(2):69-79. (A meeting of science and tradition in Brazil: medical plants and lady prayers). 

Dougherty, J. W. D. (1979). Learning names for plants and plants for names. Anthropological Linguistics, 21:289-315.

Driver, R. (1989). Student´s conceptions  and the learning of science. International Journal of Science Education, 11:481-490. 

Duffey, K. J., Pereira, R. A., Popkin, B. M. (2013). Prevalence and energy intake from snaking in Brazil: analysis of the first nationwide individual survey. European   Journal  of Clinical Nutrition, 67(8): 868-874.

Eshach, H. (2006). Science literacy in primary and pre-school. Springer: The Netherlands.

Fischer, K. W., Rose, S. P. (1998). Grow cycles of brain and mind. Educational Leadership, 56(3): 56-60.

Gatt, S., Tunnicliffe, S. D., Borg, K., and Lautier, K. (2007). Young Maltese children´s ideas about plants. Journal of Biological Education, 41(3):117-121.

Gentner, D., Stevens, A. L. (1983). Mental models. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Gil, A., Fanizzi, S. (2011). Porta aberta: ciências, 5º. Ano. São Paulo: Editora FTD .(Open door: sciences, 5th grade)

Gilbert, J. K., Boulter, C. J. (1998). Learning science through models and modelling. In: B. J. Fraser and K. G. Tobin (eds.) International Handbook of Science Education, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 53-66.

Greene, H. (2005). Organisms in nature as a central focus for biology. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 20(1):23-27.

Guimarães, F., Santos, F. S. dos (2011). A Botânica escolar nos ensinos primário e básico (1º. ciclo) no último século em Portugal; análise de manuais escolares de ciências da natureza. Revista de Educação, 18(1):83-111(School  Botany in primary school in Portugal: textbook analysis concerning natural world).

Harvey, M. (1989). Children´s experiences with vegetation. Children´s Environmental Quarterly, 6(1):36-43.

Hopperstad, M. H. (2010). Study meaning in children´s drawings. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 10(4):430-452.

Hatano, G. (1993). The development of biological knowledge: a multi-national study. Cognitive Development, 8(1): 47-62.

Inagaki, K., Hatano, G. (2006). Young children´s conception of the biological world. Current Directions in Psychology Science, 15(4): 177-181.

Johnson-Laird, P. N. (1993). Mental models: toward a cognitive science of language inference and consciousness. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Johnston, J. (2005). Early explorations in science. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Keil, F. C. (2003). That´s life: coming to understand biology. Human Development, 46: 369-377.

Kinoshita, L. S., Torres, R. B., Tamashiro, J. Y.,  and Formi-Martins, E. R. (2006). A Botânica no ensino básico: relatos de uma experiência transformadora. São Carlos: Rima Editora. (Botany in primary school: report of a successful experience).

Klein, E.S., Pinheiro, M. A., and Silveira, V. (2001). Construindo o conhecimento de Botânica: uma experiência interdisciplinar em Campinas. Ciência e Ensino, 10:9-13 (Building up botanical knowledge: an integrated experience).

Knight, S. (2009). Forest schools and outdoor learning in the early years. London: Sage Publications.

Kramer, S. (1994). Com a pré-escola nas mãos: uma alternativa curricular para a educação infantil. São Paulo: Ática Editora (Dealing with preschool: an alternative curriculum for the kindergarten).

Kramer, S. (2006). As crianças de 0 a 6 anos nas políticas educacionais no Brasil: educação infantil e/é fundamental. Educação e Sociedade, 27(96):797-818. (Children aged 0 to 6 years old and the educational policy in Brazil: kindergarten and primary school must be compulsory).

Krampen, M. (1991). Children´s drawings: iconic coding of the environment. New York: Plenum Press.

Kuhn, D. (1989). Children  and adults as intuitive scientists. Psychological Review, 96:674-689.

Kuntz, M. G. F., Fiates, G. M. R., and Teixeira, E. (2012). Healthy and tasty school snacks: suggestions from Brazilian children consumers. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 36(1):38-43.

Libarkin, J. C., Beilfuss, M., and Kurdziel, J. P. (2003). Research methodologies in science education: mental models and cognition in education. Journal of Geoscience Education, 51(1):121-126.

Lindmann-Matthies, P. (2002). The influence of an educational program on children´s perception of biodiversity. Journal of Environmental Education, 33: 22-31.

Lindemann-Matthies, P. (2005). “Loveable” mammals and “lifeless” plants: How children´s interest in common local organisms can be enhanced through observation of nature. International Journal of Science Education, 37(6):655-677.

Lindemann-Matthies, P. (2006). Investigating nature on the way to school: responses to an educational program by teachers and their pupils. International Journal of Science Education, 28: 895-918.

Lorenzi, H., Sartori, S., Bacher, L. B., and  Lacerda, M. (2006). Frutas brasileiras e exóticas cultivadas. São Paulo: Instituto Plantarum de Estudos da Flora. (Brazilian fruit and exotics plants). 

Lorenzi, H., and Souza, H. M. (2001). Plantas ornamentais no Brasil: arbustivas, herbáceas e trapadeiras. Nova Odessa: Instituto Plantarum. (Ornamental plants from Brazil).

Louv, R. (2007). Last child in the woods. Saving our children from nature –deficit disorder. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books.

Luquet, G-H., (1927/1979). Le dessin enfantin. Neuchatel: Editions Delechaux & Niestlè.  Porto: Livraria Civilização Editora. ( Children´s drawings, o desenho infantil).

Martínez-Lousada, C., García-Barros, S., Garrido, M. (2014). How children characterise living beings and the activities in which they engage. Journal of Biological Education, 48(4): 201-210.

Martinho, L. R., Talamoni, J. L. B. (2007). Representações sobre meio ambiente de alunos de quarta série do ensino fundamental. Ciência e Educação, 1(13): 1-13. (Environment  representations by 4th grade primary school pupils).

Mauseth, J. (2009). Botany-An introduction to plant biology. Canada: Jones and Bartlett.

Moen,T. (2006). Reflections on the narrative research approach. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 5(4): 1-11. Available: http://www.ualberta.ca/~iiqm/backissues/5_4/pdef/moen.pdf.

Moraes, R. (1995). Ciências para as séries iniciais e alfabetização. Porto Alegre: Sagra-DC Luzzato (Science at the first grades of primary school and literacy).

Oliveira, D. L. de (2002) [ed.] Ciências nas salas de aula. Porto Alegre: Ed. Mediação. (Science teaching in the classroom).

Oliveira, F. de, Akissue, G. (1989). Fundamentos de Farmabotânica. São Paulo: Livraria Atheneu Editora. (Principles of Pharmacobotany).

Oliveira, R. F. de, Antunes, I. T., and Alcantara, J., (1986). Atlas Escolar de Botânica. Rio de Janeiro: Fundação de Assistência ao Estudante (School Atlas of Botany).

Patrick, P., and Tunnicliffe, S. D. (2011) What plants and animal do early childhood and primary student´s name? Where do they see them? Journal of Science Education and Technology, 20:630-642.

Rapp, D. N. (2007). Mental models: theoretical issues for visualization in science education. In: J. K. Gilbert (Ed.), Visualization in Science Education (pp. 43-60), Dordrecht: Springer.

Richardson, K. (1998). Models of cognitive development. Hove: Psychology Press.

Rowlands, M. (2001). The development of children´s biological understanding. Journal of Biological Education, 35(2):66-68.

Rymell, R. (1999). What defines a plant? Primary Science Review, 57:23-25.

Schussler, E. E., Olzak, L. (2008). It´s not easy being green: students recall of plant and animals images. Journal of Biological Education, 42:112-119.

Schwarz, M. L., Sevegnani, L., André, P. (2007). Representações da mata atlântica e de sua biodiversidade por meio de desenhos infantis. Ciência & Educação, 13 (3): 369-388, (Representation of the Atlantic Rainforest and its biodiversity through children´s drawings).

Sipinski, E. A. B., Hoffmann, P. M. [Eds.] (2010)  Cultura e biodiversidade nos jardins de Curitiba.  Curitiba: Sociedade de Pesquisa em Vida Selvagem e Educação Ambiental. (Culture and biodiversity at   the parks in Curitiba). 

Solomon, J. (1987). Social influences on the construction of pupils understanding of science. Student Science Education, 14: 63-82.

Strgar, J. (2007). Increasing the interest of students in plants. Journal of Biological Education, 42(1): 19-23.

Stavy, R., Wax, N. (1989). Children´s conceptions of plants as living things. Human Development, 32:88-94.

Sumida, M. (2013). The Japanese view of nature and its implications for the teaching of science in the early childhood years. In: Georgeson, J., Payler, J. [Edts.] International perspectives in early childhood education and care. Maidenhead: Open University Press, pp. 243-256.

Symington, D.,  Boundy, K., Radford, T.,  and Walton, J. (1981). Children´s drawings of natural phenomena. Research in Science Education, 11:44-51.

Tamer, P., Gal-Chappin, R., and Nussnovitz, R. (1991). How do intermediate and junior high school students conceptualize living and non-living?  Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 18(3): 241-248.

Tiberghein, A. (1994). Modeling as a basis for analyzing teaching-learning situations. Learning and Instructions, 4:71-87.

Toomer, S. (2013). Seeing the wood for the trees. The Biologist, 60(3): 12-15.

Tull, D. (1994). Elementary students´ responses to questions about plant identification: responses strategies in children. Science Education, 78:323-343. 

Tunnicliffe, S. D. (2001) a. Out of the mouths of babes: what children say about plants as exhibits. Public Garden, 1-3, (Autumn).

Tunnicliffe, S.  D.  (2001)b. Talking about plants-comments of primary school groups looking at plant exhibits in a botanical garden. Journal of Biological Education, 36(1):27-34.

Tunnicliffe, S. D. (2013). Talking and doing science: a practical guide for ages 2-7. London: Routledge.

Tunnicliffe, S. D., Gatt, S., Agius, C., Pizzato, S. A. (2008). Animals in the lives of young Maltese children. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, 4(3): 215-221. 

Tunnicliffe, S. D., and Reiss, M. J. (1999). Building a model of the environment: how do children see animals. Journal of Biological Education, 33(4): 142-148.

Tunnicliffe, S. D., and Reiss, M. J. (2000). Building a model of the environment: how do children see plants? Journal of Biological Education, 34(4): 172-177.

Vella, Y., and Gatt, S. [Eds] (2003).Constructivist teaching in primary school. Luqa, Malta: Editorial Agenda.

Villarroel, J. D., Infante, G. (2013). Early understanding of the concept of living things: an  examination of young children´s drawings regarding plant life. Journal of Biological Education, 48(3): 119-126.

Wandersee, J. H., and Schussler, E. E. (2001). Toward a theory of plant blindness. Plant Science Bulletin, 47(1):2-9.

Ward, H. (2007). Using brains in science: ideas for children ages 5 to 14. London: Paul Chapman.

Wood-Robison, C. (1991). Young  people´s ideas about plants. Studies in Science Education, 19:119-135.

Yang, H-Chin., and Noel, A. M. (2006). The developmental characteristics of four- and five-year-old preschoolers´ drawing: an analysis of scribbles, placement patterns, emergent writing, and name writing in archived spontaneous drawing samples. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 6(2): 145-162.