The impact of field trips and family involvement on mental models of the desert environment

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20 Scopus citations


This study examined the mental models of the desert environment held by fourth- and seventhgrade students in the USA and whether those mental models could be affected by: (1) classroom field trips to a desert riparian preserve, and (2) interaction with family members at the same preserve. Results generally indicated that students in this study were resolute in their models and that field trips did not impact the types of models students adhered to. Twenty-three seventhgrade students who self-selected to participate in a Family Science Club with their parents did demonstrate a shift in their mental models and developed significantly more sophisticated models over time. A critical implication of the study is that unless transformation of mental models of the environment is an explicit goal of instruction, simple exposure to the environment (even within the context of life science instruction) will not transform understandings of how organisms within an environment act and interact interdependently.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1455-1472
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Conceptual change
  • Conceptual development
  • Elementary school
  • Environmental education
  • Field trips
  • Intergenerational learning
  • Mental models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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