An Exploratory Study to Investigate the Impact of an Enrichment Program on Aspects of Einsteinian Physics on Year 6 Students
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Concepts related to Einsteinian physics are usually not taught until students are in university, denying younger children access to this powerful way of understanding space, time and gravity. Considerable research has shown, however, that complex and abstract scientific ideas can be presented in age appropriate ways that result in measurable learning. The purpose of the research presented in this paper was to explore the impact of an enrichment program on aspects of Einsteinian physics on year 6 (10 and 11 years old) children’s understanding of and attitudes towards this topic. The research design was an exploratory case study of one class of 26 students who participated in six in-class lessons as well as an excursion to a science centre, the Gravity Discovery Centre, and a scripted play about relevant key scientists. Mixed methods of data collection included a pre/post-instruction questionnaire, classroom observations and an interview with the physics professor who conducted the program. The results indicated a statistically significant improvement in children’s conceptual understanding on the pre/post-questionnaire with a small effect size. Analysis of individual items on the questionnaire indicated variable results with regard to particular concepts. For example, after the enrichment program, students were better able to understand curved space, but little improvement was observed in their understanding of gravity on the Moon. The majority of students reported being interested and engaged in the program of activities and did not feel that they were too young to learn concepts related to Einstein’s physics.
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