Research in Science Education

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 729–752

Young Children’s Knowledge About the Moon: A Complex Dynamic System

  • Grady J. Venville
  • Robert D. Louisell
  • Jennifer A. Wilhelm

DOI: 10.1007/s11165-011-9220-y

Cite this article as:
Venville, G.J., Louisell, R.D. & Wilhelm, J.A. Res Sci Educ (2012) 42: 729. doi:10.1007/s11165-011-9220-y


The purpose of this research was to use a multidimensional theoretical framework to examine young children’s knowledge about the Moon. The research was conducted in the interpretive paradigm and the design was a multiple case study of ten children between the ages of three and eight from the USA and Australia. A detailed, semi-structured interview was conducted with each child. In addition, each child’s parents were interviewed to determine possible social and cultural influences on the child’s knowledge. We sought evidence about how the social and cultural experiences of the children might have influenced the development of their ideas. From a cognitive perspective we were interested in whether the children’s ideas were constructed in a theory like form or whether the knowledge was the result of gradual accumulation of fragments of isolated cultural information. Findings reflected the strong and complex relationship between individual children, their social and cultural milieu, and the way they construct ideas about the Moon and astronomy. Findings are presented around four themes including ontology, creatures and artefacts, animism, and permanence. The findings support a complex dynamic system view of students’ knowledge that integrates the framework theory perspective and the knowledge in fragments perspective. An initial model of a complex dynamic system of young children’s knowledge about the Moon is presented.


AstronomyConceptual understandingEarly childhoodMoonSociocultural

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Grady J. Venville
    • 1
  • Robert D. Louisell
    • 2
  • Jennifer A. Wilhelm
    • 3
  1. 1.Graduate School of Education (M428)University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Teacher DevelopmentSt Cloud State UniversitySt. CloudUSA
  3. 3.Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics Education DepartmentUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA