Ecology through literature for children: a study with pupils in the primary school

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Ecological knowledge plays an increasingly important role in today’s society, since it allows us to understand how nature works and how severe the human action is when related to its destruction. Ecology includes concepts with different levels of complexity, which has raised doubts about their inclusion in the primary school curriculum. Therefore, the main aim of the present study was to evaluate the approach of ecology concepts in a class of the 4th grade of primary school, through children’s literature books which are focused on ecological relations, and exploring them from the Reading Circles strategy (Cercles de lecture), a dynamic proposed by Giasson (2003), which promotes text understanding, using collaborative working and proposing different functions to be assigned by pupils, called the roles (Les rôles).

It was a case study and it was developed in an analytical and critical paradigm through an action research methodology. Its main objectives were:
(i) to propose strategies to explore books with ecological content, promoting and integrating mother tongue and science;
(ii) to enhance the use of literary texts to approach the understanding of the following ecological concepts – ecology, biodiversity, food chain, ecosystem, extinction, habitat, and pollution;
(iii) to check if the use of literature helps effective understanding of these concepts, and (iv) to check whether the use of literature contributes to the promotion of values associated with nature preservation.

Data collection was done through the systematic recording of field notes by the main researcher of the study and using a questionnaire administrated in two separate moments, before and after the project implementation, to check the understanding of different ecological concepts. The data analysis reinforced the conviction that the understanding of ecological concepts can be improved through the exploration of children’s literature books, using the Reading Circles Strategy, since children revealed an understanding of the meaning of almost all the concepts that were explored during the sessions especially dedicated to the implementation of the research study. Even so, the understanding of the ecosystem concept was not so well achieved by the majority of children, which seems to be related with its complexity and need to understand more holistic ideas. During the project the children also improved their vocabulary as well as the use of scientific terms during the learning process.

Therefore, the present study supports the idea that the use of children’s literature can help the integration of different curricular areas. It also shows that ecological concepts can be taught in the first years of schooling, but that its success depends on the concepts and strategies chosen.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationICERI2020 Proceedings
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)978-84-09-24232-0
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020
Event13th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation -
Duration: 9 Nov 202010 Nov 2020


Conference13th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Abbreviated titleICERI2020


  • Ecological knowledge
  • Primary school
  • Mother tongue and science integration


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