Research in Science Education

, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 1535–1549 | Cite as

Children’s Drawings About “Radiation”—Before and After Fukushima

  • Susanne Neumann
  • Martin Hopf


Although the term “radiation” has a fixed place in everyday life as well as in the media, there is very little empirical research on students’ conceptions about this topic. In our study we wanted to find out what students associate with this term. In 2009, we asked 509 students (between grade 4 and grade 6) from seven different schools to draw pictures related to “radiation”. This method of children’s drawings was supported by short interviews (n = 74). The motifs appearing in the drawings were analysed, and we investigated whether or not the age and the sex of the children had any influence on the choice of motifs. One major result was that the older the students were, the more likely they were to choose sources of invisible radiation (nuclear power plants, mobile phones) as their motifs. Nine months after the tragic events in Fukushima (and at the same time 2 years after the 2009 data collection), we replicated the study. This time, we received 516 drawings from the same schools as in the 2009 study (supported by 33 interviews). This replicative trend study made it possible to compare the choice of motifs and discover possible differences. The results of this analysis showed that the drawings of 2011 included significantly more motifs related to radioactivity. This difference was prevalent in the drawings regardless of sex or age differences. Direct references to the Fukushima accident could be found in both the drawings and interviews.


Students’ conceptions Radiation Radioactivity Children’s drawings 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Austrian Educational Competence Centre PhysicsUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria

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