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Brophy, Jere, Janet Alleman, and Carolyn O’Mahony. “Primary Grade Students’ Knowledge and Thinking about Food Production and the Origins of Common Foods.” Theory and Research in Social Education 31(1) (2003): 10-50.


Individual interviews were conducted with 96 K-3 students, stratified according to grade level, achievement level, and gender. The students were asked to explain land-to-hand progressions involved in bringing several common foods to our tables, identify products derived from common farm animals, explain why a pound of cereal costs more than a pound of apples and a restaurant meal costs more than the same meal eaten at home, describe the steps involved in growing corn, explain why there are few farms in Alaska, identify inventions that have modernized farming, and explain why many fewer farmers per capita are needed today than in the past. The students kenw more about the physical appearances of things than their underlying natures, and more about the uses of finished prducts than about the land-to-hand transformations involved in creating those products. Response sophistication was related much more closely to age (grade level) and personal experiences out of school than to achievement level or gender. Findings are discussed with reference to an emerging literature on children’s thinking about history, geography, society, and culture, and to potential implications for curriculum and instruction in the primary grades.