A Case Study of Three Childrens' Original Interpretations of the Moon's Changing Appearance

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7 Scopus citations


A case study of three children was conducted to shed light on the process that children undergo in developing their understanding of physical phenomena. Using the notion of spontaneous construction and its relationship with school learning of scientific concepts, children's early thoughts of the moon's appearance were explored. Research questions were primarily concerned with how children view the moon's appearance, explain how and/or why its appearance changes, quantify the moon's size and its distance to Earth, and explain the moon's illumination. A Piagetian interview was conducted with each child and then each was asked to tell a story about the moon. The external interest of this research study involves when and why do children develop the commonly held Earth's shadow alternative conception as the cause of the moon's phases. The findings show that children have stories and experiences that give meaning to the existence of such things as the moon, stars, sun, and clouds. Similarities were found in the children's interpretations with regard to their natural tendencies to animate celestial objects. Clues were discovered of cultural influence such as family, personal observations and experiences, books, pictures, car travel, and even a strategically placed Palladian window.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)258-275
Number of pages18
JournalSchool Science and Mathematics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2009

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
2009 School Science and Mathematics Association.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mathematics (miscellaneous)
  • Education
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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