The Nature of Science as a planned
by Michael Fenton, as shared with the Primary
Science Teacher Fellows
What should we see happening
in our classes if the students are truly experiencing what science is
Is there a problem with Science education
in New Zealand?
Clearly, the answer is Yes. A number of
reports indicate that the way Primary and Secondary Science
is delivered does not match the way scientists work or make
Why is this important?
The recent recession demonstrates that
entrepreneurship on its own does not create real wealth or real
benefits, but new products are needed. The growing awareness for new
technologies to be sustainable in terms of their 'footprint' (the harm
they do) is now leading to a concept of technologies also having a
'hand print' - they benefit the environment without this being the main
reason for their production.
As a research scientist who has retrained
as a science teacher, and having carried out research in education, I
have some suggestions of where teachers could start leading their
schools in developing science units that effectively integrate the
"nature of science" strand of the curriculum.
But don't you need to teach / know a lot
of science content first?
Some reflections that may help…
Nature of Science strand - compulsory up to Year 10
It is now compulsory for secondary schools as well as primary schools
to cover the Nature of Science strand. You may like to use and add
to Chris Astall's checklist for activities
that support the Nature of Science strand
Building Science Concepts and Making Better Sense of
The BSC and MBS books are very useful for novice as well
as experienced science teachers:
Both books provide
- guidance as to the important science concepts in a
- activities to help develop these ideas
The BSC books provide:
- teacher background science knowledge all in one
place: useful for other topics too
- common problems children experience in grappling with
This series of 64 books published by the Ministry of Education is
designed to help primary teachers build students’ science
concepts in the contextual strands.
A table of titles
allows teachers to search by level and contextual strand is
included in this section
. Each title has an associated concept
overview in PDF format.
Susan Hagedorn has summarised
the entire BSC series according to content, themes and activities
that support scientific thinking will:
interest in a subject
any puzzles, riddles, problems or 'weird' stuff happening related to
ANY topic you are working on this term?
Different Cultures' - language involves people speaking…how does
sound get from one place to another? Can it bounce? Can it reflect? Can
people communicate without sound? Has new technology been invented to
replace sight, taste or hearing? Have different cultures contributed
different science knowledge to the world?
eg, 'The Final Frontier' - what were the other
frontiers BEFORE the final one? What difficulties did people have to
overcome when entering a new frontier? - food, climate hazards, etc.
What drove people to enter new frontiers? - food, climate change,
minerals, etc? What technologies are required to explore new
environments? How do movies and TV shows portray the Final Frontier?
What functions does a spacesuit provide?
knowledge or interests do the children already have about this topic
that could incorporate ideas from the Goldsworthy '"It's not fair'
article? (TKI similar
summary here )
classifying and identifying, pattern seeking, making things or
developing systems, exploring, and of course, fair testing.
It is OK to start from the child's
perspective…eg, that the world is flat. We have ideas based on
what our senses tell us and this is where science begins. Many adults
would have difficulty explaining how we know the world is round. Try
standing in the child's shoes and wonder - how could we test our idea
OR look at the world a different way?
fellow teachers to add their ideas and interests to the unit; if the
teacher is motivated and enthusiastic about their own twist on a unit
of work, it is likely their students will pick up on this enthusiasm.
Use differences in approaches as a strength of the school.
specific questions of interest for follow up
a unit using ICT, books or video's is OK… but the nature of
science means evaluating our judgements against real-world consequences.
It is OK to learn with / from the
students…experiencing things as the children do is an excellent
place to begin learning…for all ages.
Learning content often comes as a consequence of an
experience in the real world. You can always ask someone else for help
on content…ask a mentor!
students assess their new understanding in relation to consequences for
new understanding offer opportunities for more investigation to be
done? More data to collect? New categories to be created? New systems
to be invented?
Can this new knowledge be shared so others may
benefit? If so, in what form?
Is there some 'content' knowledge that would now be
appropriate for the student to acquire? If so, in what form?
students assess their new understanding in relation to others
of science encourages endless cycles of learning by action!
Inquiry model / Scientific Investigation
model in mathematics
investigations for Primary and Secondary students
Build you own
inexpensive lab equipment
Success stories from
Journalism 1st place winner - A Year 8 student asks 'Do the
benefits of science outweigh the risks?' As printed by the Royal
meter - a 10 year old student's science fair project is being
commercially produced by the National Foundation for the Deaf
effort - students of different ages, abilities and interests
make a great team for New Zealands school-based research group
Why hands-on Science
is important and a great learning opportunity ...
Primary Science Teacher Fellows (PSTF) programme, administered
by the Royal Society of New Zealand, goes some way to addressing the
science issue. Oddly, rather than the Ministry of Education (MoE)
taking responsibility for this, the PSTF programme is sponsored by the
Minsitry of Research, Science and Technology (MoRST).
ICT: Interested in
Conversations and Thinking
- technology is less important
than the conversations it permits students to have
teacher. For the techno-phobic this puts the student in the role of
expert technologist but the teacher remains the expert assessor.
Teaching and the f word:
From the New Zealand INTERFACE article....putting the fun back into
while dealing with the competing tensions of assessment
and covering the curriculum. For primary and secondary teachers