The World in Their Minds: A Multi-scale Approach of Children’s Representations of Geographical Space

  • Veerle VandelacluzeEmail author
Part of the Lecture Notes in Geoinformation and Cartography book series (LNGC, volume 5)


A number of studies have explored primary school children’s spatial representations at one particular scale. Little is known however on children’s mental constructs of the geographical space as a whole. The omnipresence of digital mapping tools in everyday life has made such an understanding increasingly important. Elaborating effective teaching strategies e.g. for Google Earth or GPS, requires a basic understanding of children’s mental maps at different scales. In this study 94 Flemish children aged 9–12 represented their world at three scale levels: the local neighbourhood (test 1), the continents (test 2) and the Sun-Earth-Moon system (test 3). The results demonstrate that a majority of the children show an incomplete geographical world view. Only between test 2 and 3 a significant correlation was found. This supports previous psychological research pointing out at least a partial dissociation between large-scale and small-scale spatial abilities. Consequences for primary school map education are discussed.



I am very grateful to the teachers and pupils for their willingness to participate in this study and I would especially like to thank student teachers Caroline Maes, Sofie Rosiers, Virginie Vandevelde and Liesbet Van Rosendaal who assisted me in the data collection. This research would not have been possible without their help.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Primary School Teacher EducationUniversity College KATHO—Association Catholic University of LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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