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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.

Key Competencies and Science Capabilities

The New Zealand Curriculum identifies five key competencies important for students to develop and TKI research recognises five ‘capabilities’ especially relevant teaching the nature of science. These are integrated into the junior science programme as follows:

Key competency

Science capabilities

Application in Junior Science


  • Supporting ideas with evidence and looking for evidence to support others' explanations.
  • Critiquing evidence.
  • Engaging with science in real life contexts.
  • Making careful observations and differentiating between observation and inference.
  • Strategies for planning well-structured explanations.
  • Investigations.
  • Research a scientist.
  • Teaching experimental method.

Using language, symbols, and texts

  • Representing science ideas in a variety of ways, including models, graphs, charts, diagrams and written texts.
  • Learning science vocabulary, symbolism and methods.

Managing self

  • Classroom management that encourages student responsibility.
  • Homework diaries, Revision planning.

Relating to others

  • 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.

Habits of Mind

The sixteen ‘Habits of Mind’ adopted by Marist College were identified by Costa. They relate to disposition and enable us to behave intelligently when confronted with problems, dichotomies, dilemmas, enigmas and uncertainties. They promote strategic reasoning, insight, perseverance, creativity, and craftsmanship. The critical attribute of intelligent human beings is not only having information, but also knowing how to act on it. Habits of Mind are a composite of many skills, attitudes and proclivities.

The habits of mind are:

  • Persisting
  • Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision
  • Managing impulsivity
  • Gathering data through all senses
  • Listening with understanding and empathy
  • Creating, imagining, innovating
  • Thinking flexibly
  • Responding with wonderment and awe
  • Thinking about thinking (metacognition)
  • Taking responsible risks
  • Striving for accuracy
  • Finding humour
  • Questioning and posing problems
  • Thinking interdependently
  • Applying past knowledge to new situations
  • Remaining open to continuous learning

The habits of mind with special relevance in science:

Habit of mind

Application in Junior Science

Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision

Linking science ideas in well-structured explanations of observations.

Gathering data through all senses

Making accurate observations and recording them in a systematic way.

Responding with wonderment and awe

Science opens minds to learning truths that are often not apparent at first glance. Wonder and awe are natural responses when someone learns something new that surprises them and expands their world view.

Striving for accuracy

Developing laboratory skills and attitudes to make accurate and reliable measurements.

Applying past knowledge to new situations

Learning scientific theories and models and applying these to explain what they observe about the world around them.