The following is a journal entry for Sister Edwards' Child Development class.
Eden is seven years old, and has lived on the Micronesian island of Saipan since she was about eighteen months old. Her family is from an island off the coast of Maine, a place of which she has no recollection. Her seven older brothers and sisters, for the most part, remember things such as altering seasons, Atlantic wildlife, and pine trees. To watch Eden's cognitive development has always been amazing to me because of the very differen experiences we have had thus far. She and I are very much alike in personality and looks, and yet her understanding of certain concepts during the preoperational period (between the ages of two and six) were relatively different from my own during that stage.
Allow me to use the concept of celestial orbits as an example for the cognitive development of Eden and I. Growing up with television, I can only imagine that my understanding of sunrise and sunset at the age of four was based off of what Sesame Street and Mr. Roger's Neighborhood portrayed - something about personifying the sun with sensations such as sleepiness. Eden on the other hand has never had television in her childhood, and therefore took what she knew of the environment in which she lived (continual summer, Pacific wildlife, and palm trees) and ran with it.
When my younger brother asked my dad what happened to the sun when it went down (he was, at the time, about six years old) Eden (four) piped in with this answer: "At nighttime the sun falls into the water and in the morning the dolphins push it back up into the sky again." Simple, to the point, and completely irrational. Although Eden had, what was in her mind a very clear theory of the sun's ratation, there really was no support whatsoever for her to thing the way she did on the topic. I never would have thought of dolphins simply because although I knew what dolphins were, they were not in my immediate environment as they are in hers.
Now when Eden is asked about how the sun works, she uses a much more reasonable explanation. (It is interesting to note that, even though she's a great deal closer to the truth, she is much less sure of herself.) The interview follows:
Me: "Can you tell me how the sun works?"
Eden: "What do you mean?"
Me: "At night, when the sun goes away, where does it go?"
Eden: "I know it stays in one place, and it shinies."
Me: "That's excellent! But where does it go when it's dark outside?"
Eden: "Well, the moon goes around the earth."
Me: "The moon goes around the earth, okay. That's good. Now what does the earth do?"
Eden: "It, uhhh... I think it goes around the sun. Or something like that."
Me: "You're right! Does that make it dark?"
Eden: "It's dark, uhhh, because, uhhh, I think because the earth goes away from the sun."
Even though Eden doesn't fully comprehend the spinning motions of the earth, she does know orbits take place and even which bodies orbit around which. In three years, and very little formal schooling, she has been able to readjust her thinking in a more logical way.