Children love the chance to learn through being totally hands-on and finding things out for themselves — the perfect way to understand the world around them. First-hand practical experience is paramount as is the teaching of scientific key skills. Children are encouraged to be independent and collaborative scientific thinkers and investigators through their involvement in exciting practical investigations. Children are encouraged to be creative and make learning more relevant to themselves by designing their own experiments. They are given opportunities to observe, explore and ask questions about living things, materials and physical processes. They evaluate evidence and consider whether tests or comparisons are fair. They use reference materials to find out more about scientific ideas. They share their ideas and communicate them using scientific language, drawings, charts and tables.
In the EYFS, we include science within the Understanding the World Area of Learning. In line with the school’s play-based learning approach, the children will mainly learn about science through games and play – which objects float and sink during water play, for example. Activities such as these help the children to develop important skills such as observation, prediction and critical thinking.
In Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2, certain topics and areas are repeated across year groups, meaning that children may revisit a particular topic in each year of primary school but with increasing difficulty and with a different focus each time.
For example, the area of animals, including humans is examined in every single year group, with a very clear progression of knowledge and understanding over the six years:
In Year 1 and 2, this involves: looking at the human body, recognising animal groups and sorting these animals.
By Year 6, this will have developed into knowing the internal structure of the human body in relation to circulation, classifying living things based on more complex characteristics and exploring scientific research into this classification.
Alongside these areas runs the Working Scientifically element. This focuses on the skills the children need to become accurate, careful and confident practical scientists. We teach the children how to master certain skills in each year group and there is a very clear progression of these set out. For example:
In Year 1 a child may have to ask questions, carry out a simple test, record simple data and then try to answer questions.
By Year 6, they should be able to plan and carry out a fair test by using equipment accurately and taking exact readings or measurements. They are also expected to be able to draw conclusions from their results and record them using a range of graphs and charts.
To enrich our children's understanding of science, we participate in British Science Week each year. During this week, the children are visited by local scientists who share key aspects of their job and the skills needed to become a scientist. Children all participate in a whole-school experiment using the working scientifically skills that they have developed and are exposed to a daily 'question of the day' which relates to big scientific questions such as 'Why is the sky blue?'.
The children also have the opportunity to devise their own investigation when we enter' The Big Science Event' through Science Oxford. This gives pupils ownership of their science investigations and can really engage and motivate them. It enables them to see science as something genuinely creative and exploratory and this can help with effective teaching and learning how to work scientifically. Children of each year group work in small teams on the science investigation of their choice.
We believe that a positive primary science experience is key to encouraging future generations to not only study this at secondary school, but also potentially to follow it as a career.
How can I support my child in Science?
- Be Interested
Find out their termly topics (we provide this information in each Year Group’s termly Curriculum Newsletter and Science Learning Organisers), and take an interest: find relevant books in the library or bookshop, do some research, brush up your own knowledge about the topic! Then you can have interesting conversations where you are both learning at the same time.
- Take a Trip
Why not take a trip to a science museum, a zoo or an aquarium? These don’t necessarily need to be completely related to what they are learning about at school. Any visit can help their curiosity and engagement with science generally. There are increasingly more virtual 'visits' available online also, if you can't manage a trip in person.
- Make it Personal
Find out about famous scientist role models and research unique and exciting achievements and inventions, up to and including the present day. Who knows, you may have the next Stephen Hawking or Marie Curie at home!
- Get Hands-On
Look up fun, practical science experiments you can do at home with everyday objects.
- Ask ‘What happens when you mix food colouring in milk?’ Then add washing up liquid and watch what happens.
- Why not try making your own mini exploding volcano? Just add bicarbonate of soda, food colouring, washing up liquid and vinegar. Then stand back and watch the eruption!
- Cooking is also a great opportunity to mix ingredients, add heat and examine changing states.
- Try exploring changing states with ice and water to begin to see those changes that can be reversed and those that can’t.
- A real favourite would have to be ‘gloop’ — use water and cornflour (add food colouring too if needed) to explore solids and liquids. Just be prepared to get messy!
- Of course, there are also some wonderful science kits available to buy to push your scientists further – making crystals, rockets and even bouncy balls.
Anything where they can be hands-on and see the science happen in front of their eyes is guaranteed to be get them interested.
- Useful Weblinks
- The Science Museum for information, games etc.
- The Children’s University of Manchester Science pages
- The Royal Institute’s annual Christmas lectures make science real for children and are available online
- National Geographic Kids