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The visualization of natural history museum habitat dioramas by Maltese primary school children

Mifsud, Edward; (2015) The visualization of natural history museum habitat dioramas by Maltese primary school children. Doctoral thesis , UCL Institute of Education. Green open access

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The thesis addresses a relatively under-explored area in this field of study within the socio-constructivist paradigm. The main aim is to investigate how 9-year-old school children visualize habitat dioramas to build a mental model, how they make sense of the dioramas to understand local flora and fauna, and how previous knowledge influences the way they visualise habitat dioramas. Data collected included a first drawing done in class, a second drawing done at the Natural History Museum before and a third following the viewing of the habitat dioramas. Each pupil was interviewed after the respective task to allow for a comprehensive description of the content of the drawings. The children we also asked to produce a web (mind map) and they were also observed as they interacted with the dioramas. Data was mainly analysed qualitatively through direct examination of the drawings and with the aid of the computer package Atlas.ti. Some general trends emerge in the findings such as animals being more present in drawings than plants. Animal diversity ranks in decreasing order from birds, mammals, arthropods and fish to reptiles, while plants are mainly seeded and ornamental. Generally drawings progress from imaginative in class and before seeing the diorama, to increasingly drawing from observation in the diorama drawings. More significantly, pupils undergo a transformation through their drawings, which may show a change from isolated organisms on a sheet of paper to greater elaboration or better accuracy in placing organisms in habitat. However, others show an opposite transformation or no significant change at all. To a certain extent, children seem to interpret the diorama through the lens of their previously held mental model. What children already know partly influences what they choose to represent, but they also accommodate new knowledge they obtain from the diorama. Dioramas that help recall familiar environments are more likely to capture attention and afford a longer viewing time, thus imparting new knowledge and moulding the child’s mental model. Habitat dioramas have the potential to serve as models for learning in Biology and Environmental Education at primary level. An interpretative model for museum settings is proposed, while its potential applications in other areas of science education and limitations are considered.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The visualization of natural history museum habitat dioramas by Maltese primary school children
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Socio-constructivism, primary science, museum education, habitat dioramas, drawings, mental models, vizualization in science
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10021923
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