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Child Development Research
Volume 2012, Article ID 613674, 10 pages
Research Article

Changes in Children's Answers to Open Questions about the Earth and Gravity

1Institute of Psychology, University of Tartu, Ülikooli 18, 50090 Tartu, Estonia
2Faculty of Education, University of Tartu, Ülikooli 18, 50090 Tartu, Estonia
3Institute of Psychology, Tallinn University, Narva mnt 25, 10120 Tallinn, Estonia

Received 29 December 2011; Accepted 10 April 2012

Academic Editor: Cheryl Dissanayake

Copyright © 2012 Triin Hannust and Eve Kikas. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Many studies that have been conducted to describe children's knowledge about the Earth and gravity have produced discrepant results. However, as most of these studies have been cross-sectional and they have used different methods for collecting and analyzing data, the question Do children at some point construct internally consistent but incorrect explanations to elementary astronomical phenomena? has not been fully answered. The aim of the study was to further explore this question by examining how children respond to open questions about the Earth and gravity and how these answers change over time. Schoolchildren's ( 𝑁 = 1 5 9 ) answers were examined four times with one-year intervals. It was found that directly after learning the topics in school many children gave synthetic responses and some oscillated between correct and incorrect explanations for a time. By the fourth grade more than half of the children were able to give scientifically accurate answers and good knowledge of facts supported children's ability to correctly generalize their existing knowledge. It was also shown that most children do not construct consistent nonscientific models of the Earth and that only thorough understanding of the discussed phenomena will lead to consistent answering.