Materials and change

Approaches to learning about materials

Materials can be classified in many different ways. They can be divided into natural materials, which come from animals and plants and the earth’s crust, and manufactured or synthetic materials, such as glass, paper and plastics, which are made from other materials. Materials may be solids, liquids or gases, for example wood, water or air.

Materials can be classified according to type, for example metals, ceramics, plastics or fibres. Fibres can be subdivided into two sub-groups:

  • Natural fibres, for example cotton, wool and silk and
  • Synthetic fibres, for example nylon and acrylic

Materials can be grouped according to their properties, for example strength, transparency, flexibility, hardness, conductivity of heat or electricity or magnetism.

They can also be grouped according to their uses, for example in building, as clothes or as food.

Materials can be examined in detail and grouped into sets according to weight, strength and flexibility. The children should explore how materials can be changed through the investigation of the effects of heating and cooling on a range of materials and the changes that are brought about when materials are mixed. They will also be introduced to ideas about filtering, evaporation, dissolving and suspension.