Volume 41 - Number 3 - 2000 | DOI: 10.5032/jae.2000.03089



The purpose of this qualitative study was to determine the understandings of pest-related science by elementary students (N = 9). Guided by theoretical frameworks for science education and studies on agricultural literacy, clinical interviews were used to surface fifth graders thinking about three benchmarks for the concept of human management of crop growth. Data analysis included validating benchmarks and language to guide the discourse, generating conceptual proposition maps, coding student responses for comparison with expert propositions, and confirming or disconfirming patterns among students. Out-ofschool experiences were the strongest determinant of student ability to engage in discourse that was compatible with experts. Students held incomplete understanding of pest-related benchmarks as indicated in their lack of ability to make connections between scientific, societal, and technological concepts. Informants lacked language to accurately articulate an understanding of the pest-related benchmarks. Most informants, especially urban, nongardening students lacked an understanding of pests and their control in the growth of plants for food. Core biological concepts, e. g. plant growth needs, may provide a structure for integrating agri-food system principles into the elementary school curriculum.

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