Kindergartners' mental models of the day and night cycle: Implications for instructional practices in early childhood classrooms
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This study aims to examine kindergarten children's mental models of the day and night cycle and provide implications for pedagogical practices targeting space science concepts in early childhood classrooms. A total of 46 kindergartners participated in the study, their age ranging from 60 to 75 months, including 22 boys and 24 girls. Semi-structured interviews involving three tasks (verbal explanations, model manipulation, and model labeling) were conducted to collect the study data and children were individually interviewed. The data were analyzed using the model identification methodology. The results demonstrated that more than half of the children had naive mental models of the day and night cycle with the distance model being the most common naive model held by the children. A total of eight children held synthetic models of the day and night cycle while only six children held a scientific model of the day and night cycle. The findings of this study suggest that children possess limitations in verbally providing causal explanations. The use of models during the interviews helped children in expressing their ideas in a more competent manner, thereby overcoming their limitations in producing verbal explanations. Implications for pedagogical practices to support learning of the day and night cycle in early childhood classrooms are provided.