research suggests that viewing disability as cultural leads to greater understanding and engagement of disabled learners. Seeing barriers to participation as cultural will require informal venues to make holistic reassessments of their practices. Emerging frameworks for research and development, such as universal design, illustrate the potential impacts of making such holistic reassessments.
The nature of the environments to which individuals are exposed influences their conceptions of scientific principles and ways of knowing. There is evidence that outdoor experiences foster social development and academic success (Hattie, Marsh, Neill, and Richards, 1997) and that being in nature is a stress reducer for children (Wells and Evans, 2003). Given this emphasis, it is surprising that few have directed attention toward science learning within different outdoor (nondesigned) environments. In this section, we describe a handful of studies that suggest that some aspects of children’s culture are influenced by whether they grow up in either urban or rural environments, and that these differences in culture impact people’s understanding of biology.
Most research studies on children’s biology have been carried out with urban, middle-class children. One claim growing out of this traditional research pattern is that young children are strongly anthropocentric—that is, that they tend to interpret entities in the biological world by comparing them to a single (human) standard.
The predominant evidence supporting this claim comes from young children’s performance on a category-based induction task. In this task, children are introduced to a single base (e.g., a dog, a bee, a human), hear a novel property attributed to that base (e.g., “dogs have andro inside of them”), and are then asked whether this property holds for other bases, both biological and nonbiological (e.g., birds, raccoons, fish, trees, bicycles).
Using this procedure with young children, Carey (1985) reported several striking results. First, children made far more inductive generalizations to other animals when introduced to a human rather than a nonhuman animal base (either a dog or a bee). The resulting pattern violated generalizations based on biological similarity. For example, 4- to 5-year-olds generalized more from a human to a bug than from a bee to a bug. In addition, strong asymmetries existed; children were more likely, for example, to generalize from a human base to a dog than from a dog base to a human.
Carey argues that this asymmetry reveals the central status of humans in biological reasoning. Going further, she argues that this early anthropocentrism must be overturned if children are to embrace the Western scientific view in which humans are not the most central exemplar or prototype, but rather are one among many biological entities.