Science in the PYP

How science practices are changing

Structured, purposeful inquiry is the main approach to teaching and learning science in the PYP. However, it is recognized that many educational innovations (or, more accurately, educational reworkings) suffer from the advocacy of a narrow, exclusive approach. The PYP represents an approach to teaching that is broad and inclusive in that it provides a context within which a wide variety of teaching strategies and styles can be accommodated, provided that they are driven by a spirit of inquiry and a clear sense of purpose.

The degree of change needed to teach science in this way will depend on the individual teacher. For those teachers who have grown weary of imposed change for which they see little point, it should be stressed that teachers are not expected to discard years of hard-earned skill and experience in favour of someone else’s ideas on good teaching. It is suggested, rather, that teachers engage in reflection on their own practice, both individually and in collaboration with colleagues, with a view to sharing ideas and strengths, and with the primary aim of improving their teaching to improve student learning. In doing so, they will be modelling the skills and attitudes that have been identified as essential for students.

As an aid to reflection, the following set of subject-specific examples of good practice has been produced. It is believed that these examples are worthy of consideration by anyone committed to continuous improvement.

Science strands

 

What do we want students to know?

 

Living things

The study of the characteristics, systems and behaviours of humans and other animals, and of plants; the interactions and relationships between and among them, and with their environment.

Related concepts: adaptation, animals, biodiversity, biology, classification, conservation, ecosystems, evolution, genetics, growth, habitat, homeostasis, organism, plants, systems (digestive, nervous, reproductive, respiratory).

 

Earth and space

The study of planet Earth and its position in the universe, particularly its relationship with the sun; the natural phenomena and systems that shape the planet and the distinctive features that identify it; the infinite and finite resources of the planet.

Related concepts: atmosphere, climate, erosion, evidence, geography, geology, gravity, renewable and non-renewable energy sources, resources, seasons, space, sustainability, systems (solar, water cycle, weather), tectonic plate movement, theory of origin.

 

Materials and matter

The study of the properties, behaviours and uses of materials, both natural and human-made; the origins of human-made materials and how they are manipulated to suit a purpose.

Related concepts: changes of state, chemical and physical changes, conduction and convection, density, gases, liquids, properties and uses of materials, solids, structures, sustainability.

 

Forces and energy

The study of energy, its origins, storage and transfer, and the work it can do; the study of forces; the application of scientific understanding through inventions and machines.

Related concepts: conservation of energy, efficiency, equilibrium, forms of energy (electricity, heat, kinetic, light, potential, sound), magnetism, mechanics, physics, pollution, power, technological advances, transformation of energy.

 

Overall expectations in science

The Science scope and sequence (2008) identifies the overall expectations considered appropriate in the PYP. It does this by looking at the central ideas included in the sample programme of inquiry published in Developing a transdisciplinary programme of inquiry (2008) and by identifying the essential understandings and processes being developed within each age range.

These expectations (outlined here) are not a requirement of the programme. However, schools need to be mindful of practice C1.23 in the IB Programme standards and practices (2005) that states “If the school adapts, or develops, its own scope and sequence documents for each PYP subject area, the level of overall expectation regarding student achievement expressed in these documents at least matches that expressed in the PYP scope and sequence documents.” To arrive at such a judgment, and given that the overall expectations in the Science scope and sequence (2008) are presented as broad generalities, it is recommended that schools undertake a careful consideration of their own scope and sequence document in order to identify the overall expectations in science for their students.

3–5 years

Students will develop their observational skills by using their senses to gather and record information, and they will use their observations to identify simple patterns, make predictions and discuss their ideas. They will explore the way objects and phenomena function, and will recognize basic cause and effect relationships. Students will examine change over varying time periods and know that different variables and conditions may affect change. They will be aware of different perspectives, and they will show care and respect for themselves, other living things and the environment. Students will communicate their ideas or provide explanations using their own scientific experience and vocabulary.

5–7 years

Students will develop their observational skills by using their senses to gather and record information, and they will use their observations to identify patterns, make predictions and refine their ideas. They will explore the way objects and phenomena function, identify parts of a system, and gain an understanding of cause and effect relationships. Students will examine change over varying time periods, and will recognize that more than one variable may affect change. They will be aware of different perspectives and ways of organizing the world, and they will show care and respect for themselves, other living things and the environment. Students will communicate their ideas or provide explanations using their own scientific experience.

7–9 years

Students will develop their observational skills by using their senses and selected observational tools. They will gather and record observed information in a number of ways, and they will reflect on these findings to identify patterns or connections, make predictions, and test and refine their ideas with increasing accuracy. Students will explore the way objects and phenomena function, identify parts of a system, and gain an understanding of increasingly complex cause and effect relationships. They will examine change over time, and will recognize that change may be affected by one or more variables. They will examine how products and tools have been developed through the application of science concepts. They will be aware of different perspectives and ways of organizing the world, and they will be able to consider how these views and customs may have been formulated. Students will consider ethical issues in science-related contexts and use their learning in science to plan thoughtful and realistic action in order to improve their welfare and that of other living things and the environment. Students will communicate their ideas or provide explanations using their own scientific experience and that of others.

9–12 years

Students will develop their observational skills by using their senses and selected observational tools. They will gather and record observed information in a number of ways, and they will reflect on these findings to identify patterns or connections, make predictions, and test and refine their ideas with increasing accuracy. Students will explore the way objects and phenomena function, identify parts of a system, and gain an understanding of increasingly complex cause and effect relationships. They will examine change over time, and they will recognize that change may be affected by one or more variables. Students will reflect on the impact that the application of science, including advances in technology, has had on themselves, society and the environment. They will be aware of different perspectives and ways of organizing the world, and they will be able to consider how these views and customs may have been formulated. Students will examine ethical and social issues in science-related contexts and express their responses appropriately. They will use their learning in science to plan thoughtful and realistic action in order to improve their welfare and that of other living things and the environment. Students will communicate their ideas or provide explanations using their own scientific experience and that of others.

Source: Making the PYP happen: A curriculum framework for international primary education (2009)           

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