Rural and urban Ugandan primary school children's alternative ideas about animals

Justine Otaala, Purdue University


This study examined rural and urban Ugandan primary children's alternative ideas about animals through the use of qualitative research methods. Thirty-six children were selected from lower, middle, and upper primary grades in two primary schools (rural and urban). Data were collected using interview-about-instance technique. Children were shown 18 color photographs of instances and non-instances of familiar animals and asked to say if the photographed objects were animals or not. They were then asked to give reasons to justify their answers. The interviews were audiotaped and transcribed. The results indicate that children tended to apply the label "animal" to large mammals, usually found at home, on the farm, in the zoo, and in the wild. Humans were not categorized as animals, particularly by children in the lower grades. Although the children in upper grades correctly identified humans as animals, they used reasons that were irrelevant to animal attributes and improperly derived from the biological concept of evolution. Many attributes children used to categorize instances of animals were scientifically unacceptable and included superficial features, such as body outline, anatomical features (body parts), external features (visual cues), presence or absence and number of appendages. Movement and eating (nutrition) were the most popular attributes children used to identify instances of animals. The main differences in children's ideas emanated from the reasons used to identify animals. Older rural children drew upon their cultural and traditional practices more often than urban children. Anthropomorphic thinking was predominant among younger children in both settings, but diminished with progression in children's grade levels. Some of the implications of this study are: (1) teachers, teacher educators and curriculum developers should consider learners' ideas in planning and developing teaching materials and interventions. (2) Teachers should relate humans to other animals during instruction. (3) Textbooks and teaching materials need careful scrutiny to insure they include humans and other small animals as part of the animal kingdom. (4) Teaching interventions should begin with the basic attributes of animals and insure children understand the relationship between the attributes and concepts. (5) Encourage the use of examples and non-examples of the concept "animal" during instruction.




Eichinger, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Science education

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