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School Students' Ideas about Air Pollution: Hindrance or Help for Learning?

Jillian Thornber, Martin Stanisstreet and Edward Boyes
Journal of Science Education and Technology
Vol. 8, No. 1 (Mar., 1999), pp. 67-73
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40185106
Page Count: 7
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School Students' Ideas about Air Pollution: Hindrance or Help for Learning?
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Abstract

School students are thought to have an insecure knowledge about the "science" of the air, yet the popular media often feature issues about air pollution, which may either confuse students further, or offer teaching opportunities. This study used a free-form questionnaire to explore 10-11 year old students' ideas about the nature of air pollution, and its biological and physical effects. Many think that 'gases' pollute the air, using the term in a general, non-scientific sense. However, some students can name individual pollutants (CFCs, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide), perhaps because they associate them with well-known environmental problems. Transport and industry were seen as the main sources of pollutants. Most students stated that air pollution will kill plants and animals. Although fewer thought this true of humans, many thought that people will become ill, with a quarter of the students raising the specific problem of asthma. Some students thought that buildings will be unaffected by air pollution, but many wrote that they would be damaged or become discolored. The view that students' ideas from out-of-school sources, coupled with their intrinsic concern for the environment, may offer starting-points for teaching curriculum science is discussed.

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