Science in the primary school curriculum

Learning in science

The development of children’s ideas is central to science education. Young children come to science activities with ideas that they have formed from previous experiences. They use these ideas to make sense of the things that happen around them. These ideas tend to be limited to concrete, observable features and may be inconsistent with the formal theories of conventional science.

The focus of science education will be on helping children to modify their ideas and to develop more scientific understandings. As well as planning science lessons on the basis of knowledge, skills and understanding, it is essential to consider the children’s ideas as the starting points for science activities and education. To change these alternative ideas or misconceptions it is necessary for pupils to become consciously aware of their ideas and then to have these ideas challenged and debated. Meaningful learning occurs when the pupils construct their understanding by modifying their existing ideas in the light of new insights gained from scientific investigations. Thus, science may be seen as the active process of the personal construction of meaning and understanding.