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Saturday
Jun032006

The Place of Pokemon in Science Education

A few years ago a Andrew Balmford and some colleagues from the Department of Zoology at Cambridge found that 8 year old UK primary school children were substantially better at identifying species of Pokemon than species of natural animals and plants (Science, Volume 295, No. 5564, 29 March 2002, p. 2367). They suggested that, in our modern environment, our children's in-built 'biophilia' classification skills are being transferred from natural species to artificial ones.

My daughter, Zoe, went through a Pokemon phase between the ages of 5 and 10: she watched the television programs, collected and swapped the cards, read the books, bought the cuddly toys and went to see the films. I can remember being impressed by her single-mindedness at exploring this imaginary world. However, this exploration was not being driven by in-built 'biophilia', but by peer-pressure: she was doing it because her friends were doing it and it enabled her to take part in the games they were playing.

One day, when Zoe was still 5, we were watching a nature program on television when the word 'evolution' was mentioned.  Zoe looked up at me and asked what 'evolution' was.  Now, Pokemon undergo a process that is called 'evolution' but which is really a form of metamorphosis.  I was able to explain metamorphosis to her in terms of tadpoles, frogs, caterpillars and butterflies, and how it occurs within the lifetime of one individual.  Then I explained 'real' evolution in terms of  apes, chimps and humans and how it works over the lifetimes of many individuals.  I think she understood.  I wonder how many secondary school biology teachers would welcome such interest from their teenage pupils!

Reader Comments (2)

Humans didn't come from monkeys.
November 24 | Unregistered CommenterMe
No they didn't. But humans and monkeys do have a common ancestor.
November 25 | Unregistered CommenterTristram

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