The geographical understanding of children aged 5 to 8 years.
This research investigates the geographical understanding
of children aged 5 to 8 years defined as children's conception of
the earth's surface. The purpose is to study geographical understanding
as emerging mainly from four cognitive operations: the separation of
the earth's surface into places and land uses, the assemblage of
these elements into a continuous surface, the construction of the
elements into a geographical hierarchy and their representation on
a two-dimensional plan.
The first three operations are studied through clinical
interviews and drawing tasks, which bear upon the child's
construction of geographical objects, of geographical space and of the
origin of the built environment. The fourth operation is studied
through an exercise in a real large-scale environment consisting
of two blocks of houses: the exercise implies route learning,
descriptions and predictions of routes, indications of directions,
map drawing and model construction.
The children's answers on each topic in the interviews and
at each task In the field exercise are ordered according to
their level of development: consequently, developmental scales
of geographical understanding are formed. These scales appear
to follow the developmental sequence identified by Piaget, except
for a few disparities owing to the particular topic investigated.
They cover the span from the end of the preconceptual period to
the beginning of the stage of concrete operations. However,
developmenta.l decalages are observed between a number of scales,
more particularly between route learning, the conception of the
earth's surface and the representation of a large-scale environment on a plan.
Besides describing the development of geographical understanding,
the research is aimed at explaining this development. The respective
role of the cognitive functions, namely sensori-motricity, perception,
images and operations, in the construction of the earths surface is
therefore examined, and Piaget's explanations of development,
more specifically the regulation and grouping of actions and
operations and the equilibration of assimilation andFccqqsnodatlon,