Exploring children’ understanding of the ecological concepts and its implication for environmental education

Kwok Ho TSOI

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


Many shark speices are now threatened with extinction as a result of notorious sharkfin trading process and over-exploitation of marine resources under unlimited human desire. Their loss would be devastating to marine biodiversity and ecosystems. Many peoples are striving to save and protect these big fishes through different aspects, including scientific, economic and political ways. However, the recollection of my past experience inspired me that changing attitude of people, especially developing a positive attitude of children, is the most important factor in its success. Many years before, a young boy told me that all sharks were bad guys so that he wanted to kill all of them. His alternative conceptions not only terrify me, but also arouse my study interest on what children think about the issues. The kid presenting such conceptions and attitude is believed to be the result of the lack of ecological knowledge background. Do the children really understand the sharks? Do they know the ecological role of sharks and their interaction with the other organisms in the ecosystem? Do they realize what the ecological consequences will be if all the sharks would be killed? We believe children having more understanding of the ecological knowledge should develop more commitment to environmental conservation and sustainability in their future. This study aims to investigate children’s (upper primary pupils) understanding of sharks and relevant issues in marine environment and identify any misconceptions. It also investigates the correlation between and the conceptual foundation of ecological science and the children’s understanding of the environmental issues. The study is still in progress but some interesting findings can be observed from the preliminary results. If all sharks would be removed from the ecosystem, a quarter of 277 children believe that other fishes can live peacefully and harmonically, and 20% believe the biodiversity may be enriched. About 79% of children will show the change of their attitude from ‘unlike sharks’ to ‘like sharks’ if the flesh eaters would become herbivores and 38% of them believe sharks may shift their feeding mode from carnivore to herbivore. More than 87% believe every corner of the marine environment is full of life and more than 35% think that marine can provide us unlimited resources including main food source for human consumption. The results have significant implications for improving the current approach of environmental education.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2010


Tsoi, K. H. (2010, December). Exploring children’ understanding of the ecological concepts and its implication for environmental education. Paper presented at the Global Chinese Conference on Science Education 2010, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, China.


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