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A.i The children’s perceptions of science, scientists and bacteria

In order to quickly obtain a picture of the children’s perceptions to these concepts, three blank "mini mind maps" (Buzan and Buzan, 1993) were given to each child. Each mind map consisted of a single, central word and ten radiating branches. The children were asked to add one or two words of immediately perceived association (though, not necessarily definition), to each branch. This was to be done in the shortest possible time, with minimal analytical thought.

The following examples (Figs. A.1, A.2 and A.3) are reasonably representative of the children’s responses. The fourth map (Fig. A.4), given for comparison, came from a student teacher at Cavendish School.


Figure A.1:

Pens; Mad professor

Snack; Chemicals

Electric sparks; Bottles

Bin; Chemisrty set

Document paper; Mad experiments

Figure A.2:


White coats; Books

Hairy beards; Space

Spotty faces; Charity

Quizes; Silver

Lizards; Biscuits

Figure A.3:

Microscopic view; Disease

Dirt; Stain

Science; Creature

Infection; Spots

Germs; Poison

Figure A.4:

White coats; Bunsen burners

Explore; Bulls’ eyes

Photosynthesis; Explosions

Laws; Equations

Experiment; Discovery


The children’s mind maps, in general, seem to confirm some assertions made in Introduction: Science in society. For example, perceptions of scientists seem to be of eccentric, unkempt and asocial characters, wearing white coats and mixing dangerous chemicals.

The student teacher appeared to centre on the aspired methodological path to truth, i.e. experiment, exploration, discovery and law.

Fig. A.3 illustates well the commonplace, one-sided impression of bacteria as harmful agents of disease.



A.ii The children’s thoughts about who scientists are and what they do

Generally, scientists were thought to do experiments to find things out that might help us, such as finding new medicines or making new kinds of pets (?!).

The most resonant association was with space. Scientists were known to send satellites into space, or become astronauts, to find out about planets. This was done partly just for the sake of it, but also to "find things harder than diamonds" and "to get water from the Moon."

Scientists make machines and computers to make money, so that people can be richer. They work in labs and make new kinds of food that you can send into space, such as ice-cream that never melts. They also make tablets for nourishment, so that you don’t have to spend time eating big meals, if you are in a hurry. These tablets can be made better than real food and give you lots of energy.

Generally, the children perceived scientists to be doing high-profile, state-of-the-art work, for the benefit of society. This "noble pioneer" perspective strikes a chord with the student teacher’s mind map that suggested exploration and discovery. Indeed, the association of "charity" with "scientist" by one of the children also fits this theme. However, the children’s mind maps tended to centre on scientists’ perceived oddity, rather than nobleness.


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