. "Part II - How Children Learn Science: 3 Foundations for Science Learning in Young Children." Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2007.
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Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8
that influence later developments in more elaborate and explicit beliefs about the minds of others. There are two ways in which a developing folk psychology and cognitive science are relevant to science education. First, they are domains of scientific activity, and the child’s intuitive knowledge can be understood as forming the basis for later explicit instruction on the topic. Second, the cognitive science of science itself is an important part of the science education of the child (Klahr, 2000). For example, an understanding of the subjectivity of knowledge and of potential distortions in communication is essential to being able to engage in science and is deeply dependent on an understanding of the mind and how it acquires and uses knowledge.
Given the extraordinary changes in conceptions of the living world over the past few hundred years, it is obvious that the very young child could not possibly have a fully accurate grasp of current biological knowledge. After all, only a few hundred years ago, some of the most learned members of Western society thought that the brain might simply be a large cooling organ for the rest of the body (Zimmer, 2004). Modern molecular biology is a product of the past 60 years or so, and introductory college biology courses of the 1940s have almost no overlap with those of today. In light of these dramatic historical changes, it might seem that a preschooler, let alone an infant, might have no sense whatsoever of the biological world as a distinct domain of causal regularities, mechanisms, and principles.
There is little evidence that infants appreciate the biological world as distinct. They do easily discriminate biological motions, such as walking, from nonbiological ones (Bertenthal, 1993; Booth, Pinto, and Bertenthal, 2002); however, the ability of newborn chicks to make similar discriminations illustrates the point that a mere ability to discriminate biological motion from nonbiological forms should not be overinterpreted in terms of its role in the emergence of biological thought (Vallortigara, Regolin, and Marconato, 2005). Many organisms—whether predator, prey, or both—may have strong reasons for needing a dedicated perceptual system tuned to detect biological motions in the surrounding environment.
Older human infants will classify animals together even when they differ dramatically from each other in appearance, and they will keep apart animals and artifacts (such as birds and toy planes) even when they have strikingly similar appearances (Mandler, 2004). But those acts of categorization, albeit at an apparently abstract level, may be based on seeing the animals as intentional agents compared with the inanimate objects. Along those lines, one view of the emergence of biological thought argues that the infant and the young child initially have no sense of the living world as such and instead only think of living things either as social beings (most animals)