Children who visited Auckland Observatory and Stardome Planetarium in 1998 were surveyed on their ideas about the Earth, the Moon and the Sun. Widespread misconceptions similar to those found in other studies were revealed, however the single teaching session had an impact on
children’s ideas comparable to that of much longer
interventions. Several ideas not reported previously
were expressed. For example, two children drew a figure eight orbit for the Earth; circling the Sun during the day, and the Moon at night. Only one child of the 67 surveyed proposed the notion of day and night being caused by the Sun orbiting the Earth. This is in contrast to many other studies. A drawing based pre-post survey proved to be a convenient and powerful tool for revealing changing patterns in children’s thinking. The literature surveyed indicated levels of misconceptions about astronomy among teachers and other adults that were nearly as great as those of the children being taught. It would seem a strategic move to provide teachers with sufficient training if they are required to teach astronomy at every level, as
has happened with the New Zealand science curriculum. A comparison between different question types suggests that multiple-choice questions may underestimate the knowledge of younger children by over 300% when compared with interview responses. A drawing based question in this study generated up to 41% more correct responses than a multiple-choice question on the same topic.