• iceberg
  • boy with flowers
  • checking water quality
  • planet eclipse
  • solarsystem model
  • rangitoto trees
  • kids with test tubes
  • kids with earth
  • snowy mountains
  • teens in physics class
  • Rainbow Clouds

    Refraction and diffraction of light through ice crystals in the clouds

  • Philippa On The Ice

    Philippa On The Ice Philippa Werry at an Antarctic research camp 2016

New Zealand Science Teacher

Science Curriculum/Scientific Literacy

Living world: Primary

by Victoria Rosin, BEANZ Primary Representative

A great way to start the year is to welcome your students with some science activities.

Begin with making observations and inferences, this helps develop their scientific thinking and builds your students’ ability to work scientifically. Scientists use both observations and inferences to help explain the world, yet children think they only use observations (Akerson & Volrich, 2006).

Observations and inferences are easy to do and builds Nature of Science (NoS) approaches into your programme, and you can continue to use them throughout the year. So how do you do this?

  1. Use pot plants, insects from the school grounds, garden plants and their flowers and seeds, feathers, class aquarium or any suitable item students bring.
  2. Set the items out, along with magnifying lenses, on a table or tray in a Nature Area or table in the classroom.
  3. Have students spend time looking at, and talking about, the selected object either individually, or in small groups, follow with class discussion.
  4. Use starter questions to find out what they notice about: colours, patterns, shapes, textures (observations).
  5. Next, have students develop explanations for what they are seeing (Inferences).
  6. Begin with questions about: What are the patterns, shapes, textures for? Do other items have similar features and what we can observe from them? Can our inferences remain the same, or should we change them with new information?
  7. Make it clear to the students the difference between observing and making inferences, and ways scientists use both when explaining science ideas. Herrenkohl and Guerra (1998) found that if a teacher models the process of observing and inferring, then does this in either small groups or whole class, no matter what the science content is, it results in increased student learning.

So give observation and inference a go and have fun exploring the school’s living world with your students.


  • Akerson, V.L., & Volrich. M. (2006). Teaching nature of science explicitly in a fi rst-grade internship setting. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 43(4), 377–394.
  • Herrenkohl, L.R., & Guerra, M.R. (1998). Participant structures, scientifi c discourse, and student engagement in fourth grade. Cognition and Instruction, 16(4), 431–473.

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