The Platypus: an extraordinary animal for teaching

  • XVII IOSTE SYMPOSIUM Science and Technology Education for a P IOSTE


In this paper, we intend to understand how the Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is a paradoxical animal both for an epistemologist and for a science education researcher. First, we’ll expose the historical identification process of this animal, from the beginning of the 19th Century till today. Second, we’ll analyze the content of five storybooks about the Platypus that can be presented to primary school pupils (aged 8-11). The history of the Platypus is well known but it reflects many difficulties in anatomy and classification. Today, some paradoxical characters of the Platypus are investigated from a genetic, genomic or evolutionary viewpoint. But at primary school, we wonder if the Platypus, seen as a curiosity and an exception, is a good example to show some difficulties of description and classification in biology. Content analysis of the Platypus’ storybooks focuses the different ways in which characters classify this animal and what kind of arguments they use. These fictional narratives underline the met failures when characters want to classify the Platypus: its similarities with mammals or birds constitute an obstacle to integration in a definite class.

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