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What is Science about?

Science is a way of investigating, understanding, and explaining our natural, physical world and the wider universe. It involves generating and testing ideas, gathering evidence – including by making observations, carrying out investigations and modelling, and communicating and debating with others – in order to develop scientific knowledge, understanding, and explanations.  Scientific progress comes from logical, systematic work and from creative insight, built on a foundation of respect for evidence. Different cultures and periods of history have contributed to the development of science.
By studying science, students develop an understanding of the world and learn that science involves particular processes and ways of developing and organising knowledge and that these continue to evolve. They use their current scientific knowledge and skills for problem solving and developing further knowledge. They also make informed decisions about the communication, application, and implications of science as these relate to their own lives and cultures and to the environment. 

The Five Strands of Science

  • The nature of science strand is the overarching, unifying strand. Through it, students learn what science is and how scientists work. They develop the skills, attitudes, and values to build a foundation for understanding the world.
  • The living world strand is about living things and how they interact with each other and the environment. 
  • The planet earth and beyond strand is about the interconnecting systems and processes of the Earth, the other parts of the solar system, and the universe beyond. Students also learn that Earth provides all the resources required to sustain life except energy from the Sun, and that, as humans, we act as guardians of these finite resources. 
  • The physical world strand provides explanations for a wide range of physical phenomena, including light, sound, heat, electricity, magnetism, waves, forces, and motion, united by the concept of energy, which is transformed from one form to another without loss. 
  • The material world strand involves the study of matter and the changes it undergoes. In their study of chemistry, students develop understandings of the composition and properties of matter, the changes it undergoes, and the energy involved.

Science Capabilities

The New Zealand Curriculum identifies five key competencies important for students to develop and TKI research recognises five Science Capabilities especially relevant teaching the Nature of Science.


Gather and interpret data

Learners make careful observations and differentiate between observation and inference.

Science knowledge is based on data derived from direct, or indirect, observations of the natural physical world and often includes measuring something. An inference is a conclusion you draw from observations – the meaning you make from observations. Understanding the difference is an important step towards being scientifically literate.


Use evidence

Learners support their ideas with evidence and look for evidence supporting others' explanations.

Science is a way of explaining the world. Science is empirical and measurable. This means that in science, explanations need to be supported by evidence that is based on, or derived from, observations of the natural world.


Critique evidence

Not all questions can be answered by science.

In order to evaluate the trustworthiness of data, students need to know quite a lot about the qualities of scientific tests.


Interpret representations

Scientists represent their ideas in a variety of ways, including models, graphs, charts, diagrams and written texts. Learners think about how data is presented and ask questions such as: What does this representation tell us? What is left out? How does this representation get the message across? Why is it presented in this way?


Engage with science

This capability requires students to use the other capabilities to engage with science in “real life” contexts. It involves students taking an interest in science issues, participating in discussions about science and at times taking action.


Key competency

Science capabilities

How it is developed

§  Thinking

§  Differentiate between observation and inference.

§  Ensure your explanations are robust.

§  Support explanations with evidence that is based on observations of the natural world.

§  Critique evidence - evaluate the reliability and validity of data.

§  Think about how data is represented in a resource: What does it tell us? What is left out? How does it communicate the message? Why is it presented this way?

§  Strategies for planning well-structured explanations.

§  Investigations.

§  Research a scientist.

§  Teaching experimental method.

§  Using language, symbols, and texts

§  Represent and think about science ideas in a variety of ways, including models, graphs, charts, diagrams and written texts.

§  Learning science vocabulary, symbolism and methods.



§  Managing self

§  Make careful observations.

§  Classroom management that encourages student responsibility.

§  Homework diaries, Revision planning.

§  Relating to others

§  As a group, find science ideas to support your inference/ interpretation.

§  Engage with real life science issues relevant to our community e.g. What action can we take to address or highlight important issues?

§  Classroom management that facilitates students getting to know each other.

§  Participating and contributing

§  Group work where students learn to fulfil different roles.

§  Peer tutoring encouraged.


“Science can purify religion from error and superstition; 
religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.”   
Saint John Paul II