Thursday, December 16, 2010

How do kids visualize science?

 My 7th grade students are building models of microscopic things they are studying in science class in our sim. The science teachers said they briefly cover many topics and don't have time to explore cell division, elements, compounds, photosynthesis, and nucleic acids in depth. So I thought it would be helpful for the students to make 3D models of these things to have a more vivid mental model of them when they come back to studying them more in depth later on.
 All I did is show them how to build. They had to find images and build 3D models that made sense to them since I'm no science teacher. Now what surprised me is that some of them reproduced 2D representations in this 3D environment. I assumed they would be able to imagine a 3D version of the pictures they were looking at but in many cases they couldn't take that leap.
 So it seems to represent a developmental snapshot of sorts in terms of their ability or lack of ability to visualize these abstract things they are learning about. As I told the science teachers, I'm not sure there is anything we should do about this. It could be that as they continue to study these topics they should make new models that reflect their deeper understanding, including what these things look like in 3D space.

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