Plants or animals—which do junior high school students prefer to study?



This research addressed the following questions: (1) Which science topic do junior high school students prefer to study—plants or animals? (2) Is their preference related to the variables of grade level and sex of student? Public school students from grades 7, 8, and 9 in Avoca, New York participated in the study. Findings show that 9th grade students have a greater interest in biological science topics than do students in the other grades studied. Girls are more interested in biological science topics than boys are. Girls also showed a significant preference for animals over plants. As a group, junior high school students revealed that they prefer animal study over plant study. About half of the student responses categorized as “biological science” did not express a clear-cut preference for either plants or animals. A caution about generalizability is expressed. Interviews of students suggest that the following characteristics of animals are important determinants of preferences: Animals move, eat, have eyes for sight, communicate by sound, exhibit behaviors that are fun to watch, have short and observable live cycles, interact with humans, can learn, have mates, give birth, and raise their young. It was obvious that most students think of mammals when they hear the term “animal.”