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Naming the Living World: From the Infant’s Perception of Animacy to a Child’s Species Concept

Tunnicliffe, Sue and Tomkins, Stephen (2015) Naming the Living World: From the Infant’s Perception of Animacy to a Child’s Species Concept. In: Darwin Inspired Learning. Directions in Mathematics and Science Education, 28 . Sense Publishers, Rotterdam, p. 147. ISBN ISBN: 978-94-6209-832-9

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Categorising and labelling is a basic human instinct (Brunner et al.) but a challenge for the new learner, a child. First, they have to recognise animate and inanimate items in their world and then the main variety of them – particularly plants and animals. Learners quickly recognise items in their environment and in the diverse images of everyday artifacts. Identifying as a process, in the social context of teaching and learning, requires naming. Specimens with a nominal identity are then categorised through the recognising of shared salient features. Initially, children allocate what has been observed to a category, which is usually a super-ordinate one, and then gradually learn to distinguish between category members and so add further perceptions – for example, that stages in a life cycle of the same organism are not different kinds of organism at all. The role of another person (teacher/parent) can be critical in helping the learner to acquire an understanding of the categoric attributes of the variety of living things which they see. With examples from data collected in recent research we trace the emergence of the skills of observing, naming and categorising, including its reinforcement in just physical collecting, to illustrate this learning process so fundamental to bioscience. Charles Darwin, through his own observation of species, created a whole new science. With reference to Darwin’s childhood, his own natural history training and subsequent work with his own children, we briefly trace this ontology of learning that should pertain today in developing all children’s construction of knowledge of the living world.

Item Type: Book Section
Depositing User: Atira Pure
Date Deposited: 11 Dec 2014 13:12
Last Modified: 29 Jan 2015 09:57
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