‘It is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree – make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e. the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.’ Elon Musk
At St Francis CE Primary School, Science learning is practical, relevant and creative and is celebrated through whole school enrichment activities as well as year-specific experiences. We interweave our Christian ethos into developing the children’s scientific knowledge, questioning and application, embedding our core principles through critical and reflective evaluation of what is being learnt; we aim to develop their curiosity and enthusiasm about the world as well as encourage them to foster an appreciation of our environment. Through studies of scientists and their work, pupils are enabled to identify the place of science in the context of today’s and the future’s increasingly scientific and technological world. Children’s self-confidence in learning independently encourages them to grow, have the courage to pose questions and attain their full potential. This learning in Science should be in parallel with developing their social skills working cooperatively and learning collaboratively with others.
The national curriculum for science aims to ensure that all pupils:
- develop scientific knowledge and conceptual understanding through the specific disciplines of biology, chemistry and physics
- develop understanding of the nature, processes and methods of science through different types of science enquiries that help them to answer scientific questions about the world around them
- are equipped with the scientific knowledge required to understand the uses and implications of science, today and for the future.
In KS1 and KS2, the Science units are delivered in blocks so that the pupils can dig deep into the subject matter and develop their scientific reasoning skills. The units have been chosen to compliment the overarching topic, although they may not be directly linked whilst ensuring that the pupils are given the chance to develop their skills and understanding in a broad and balanced way. Within each Science unit, the pupils will be taught the appropriate vocabulary and how to use that vocabulary to explain their understanding. The pupils are also given opportunities to explore the subject through experimentation. This allows them to gain a thorough and personalised understanding as they apply skills from previous learning and gain knowledge through careful observation. These practical activities are carefully designed to allow all styles of learners to fully engage in their Science learning. Once they have completed their exploration, they are then expected to record their findings in a variety of different ways such as tables, posters, observational drawings or graphs.
It is important that pupils are aware of their own progress and their appropriate next steps, both in the skills involved in all Science learning and in the knowledge they acquire in each of the three aspects of Science. At St Francis CE Primary School, pupils are involved with the ongoing assessment of their understanding by evaluating and recording which ‘Working Scientifically’ objectives they have been covering as they learn in each lesson. This is recorded using age-appropriate statements and in a suitable manner in their Science books. Progression of the skills involved in all Science is monitored by the class teacher termly, through the use of the school’s assessment tool (Target Tracker) and the assessment of scientific knowledge is undertaken during and at the end of each topic taught, using the National Curriculum objectives for each unit. Evidence of these is monitored by the Science team through regular book scrutiny, learning walks and evaluation of progression from year to year by analysing Target Tracker data. Additionally, formal assessment at the end of each Key Stage involves the assessment of knowledge gained in previous years; this is through verbal assessments and, in Year 6, more formal assessment using sample statutory tests.
In addition to the formal National Curriculum units, each year group creates opportunities for enrichment in scientific study.
- In EYFS, pupils take responsibility for looking after pets, visit local animal parks or farms and explore life cycles by welcoming hatching chicks into school. Use of webcams to observe the eggs hatching ensures that families can share this experience.
- Throughout Foundation and Key Stage 1, Forest School lessons develop the children’s confidence in outdoor exploration and supports their learning of the natural sciences. All classes have the opportunity throughout the year to explore the forest area and use it to enhance topics learnt.
- In Upper Key Stage 2, pupils visit secondary schools’ science laboratories to access a wider range of, and more advanced, experimental resources. Visits and demonstrations from secondary Science teachers, linked to current topics, give pupil an enthusiasm for their future learning and a wider context to their own Science learning. In Year 6, pupils are able to make electric circuits using sophisticated equipment, such as a Van der Graff generator.
- Trips to local pharmaceutical companies have introduced some of the older pupils to career options and to the rigours of industry experiments. Through such visits, pupils are able to identify and research their own in-depth questions.
- Presentations from local dental technicians or medical staff, such as radiologists, are able to reach several classes at a time particularly as the topic of Animals and Humans is covered across the key stages.
- In Reception and Year 2, pupils take part in an animal encounter experience in school, giving pupils hands-on experience of range of mini-beasts and reptiles.
- The visit of a Science Dome into school, allows for Year 3 to gain interactive knowledge to enhance their unit learning about rocks. Similarly, Year 2 use this resource to explore their unit of Space.
- In readiness for transition to Year 7, year 6 pupils undertake additional observations of the dissection of the internal organs of a sheep to enrich their Biology topic; they also conduct Physics experiments measuring the mini explosions and create their own Universal Indicator while looking at the Chemistry of acids and alkalis.
Engagement and Enjoyment
Following a twice-annual Science pupil voice, teachers review the learning experiences that the pupils are offered. In particular, approaches to experiential learning are adapted based on the feedback from pupils. In general, our use of initial immersion in each Science unit has been enhanced by continued improvement of experiments and resources used for these.
Each lesson is introduced through a question and the pupils are encouraged to offer questions at all points of learning. Science is celebrated across school on a three-yearly cycle:
- the children’s work is shared in a whole-school interactive display of work undertaken, which is also an opportunity for the pupils to see progression in a visual way;
- microscopes (one for each year), donated for free from the Royal Microscope Society, are used for a whole term in creative and innovative way to support learning and exploratory skills;
- a Science Week, with a given theme based on Working Scientifically objectives, is a chance to delve into a topic, invite experts, work collaboratively and to share in a whole-school reflection of the learning throughout the week.