Science Policy, Autumn 2023
Intent - What We Believe for Our Curriculum
We wish to develop creative, independently-thinking scientists with the motivation, knowledge and skills to succeed in a fast-changing world. All children, irrespective of needs, are fascinated by the world around them and we aim to inspire them to open their minds and develop a passion and curiosity to pursue scientific enquiry. We wish to ensure that every child is excited by scientific ideas and wants to learn to explain and analyse phenomena, make predictions and solve problems. As pupils learn science, they also learn about its uses and significance to society and their own lives. By learning about the products of science, our pupils will be able to explain the world around them.
By learning how scientific enquiry establishes scientific knowledge, pupils learn about its nature and status. They will learn how knowledge is changed by the discovery of new scientific evidence and the impact that it has in our world. This will highlight the significant contribution science has made in the past. For example, by eradicating smallpox, or discovering penicillin. Pupils will also learn about the continuing importance of science in solving global challenges such as climate change, food availability, controlling disease and access to water.
We aim to support this ethos through the interplay of two main forms of knowledge. The first is ‘substantive’ knowledge, the knowledge of the products of science, such as models, laws and theories of science. Through our teaching of science, we aim to create ‘Big Idea’ thinking in the fundamental areas of biology, chemistry and physics. Our curriculum is carefully sequenced over time beginning with the concrete and moving onto the abstract, constantly building on what the children already know to create meaning. Substantive knowledge connected to more substantive knowledge creates understanding! We believe that we need to frequently practice retrieving the knowledge that builds these concepts, or else we forget them. In our teaching practice, quizzes are peppered throughout the curriculum to ensure that knowledge sticks.
The second category is ‘disciplinary’ knowledge, which is knowledge of the practices of science. This is the knowledge scientists need so they can collect, understand and evaluate scientific evidence – it’s the scientific method, e.g. changing one variable whilst keeping everything else the same and seeing what happens.
Teachers weave substantive and disciplinary knowledge into their teaching practice through encouraging children to:
- build up a body of key facts and an understanding of key scientific concepts
- raise questions and, using their substantive knowledge, form a hypothesis to test
- apply scientific understanding to rationalise and explain new phenomena
- develop a sense of excitement and curiosity about science and natural phenomena
- develop an understanding and appreciation of the place of science in society and the way in which it will affect their future on a personal, national and global level
We know that children learn best when the curriculum is well sequenced to enable the revisiting of core knowledge, skills and understanding to deepen conceptual awareness before demanding application across the whole curriculum. Our Science Progression of Skills document outlines how the key skills are developed, revisited, assessed and built upon from EYFS to Year 6.
Implementation - How We Put Our Aims into Daily Practice
Science is taught weekly in every year group across the school. The units of work in science are planned so that they build upon prior learning. We ensure that there are opportunities for children of all abilities to develop their skills and knowledge in each curriculum area, building progression into the science scheme of work, so that the children are increasingly challenged as they move up through the school. Schema are developed through the building of scientific vocabulary, for example, EYFS pupils observe plants through magnifying glasses, naming the roots, stem, leaves, flowers and petals. By year 3, pupils have learnt about photosynthesis and dissect a plant to look under a microscope at the stamen, anther, stigma, ovary and ovule and learn how it reproduces. In year 6, children move on to learn how plants adapt to suit their environment in different ways and that adaptation may lead to evolution.
At Holbrook, lessons are fully planned and researched, giving confidence in delivery. Our children are inquisitive and encouraged to ask questions (even if teachers don’t know the answers). Through constructive questioning, scientific misconceptions that the children may have can be addressed and discussed. Furthermore, we encourage children to apply their scientific knowledge across the curriculum. Pupils are taught to use a variety of scientific enquiry types to plan and carry out investigations making full use of all our resources, indoors and outdoors. We use technology to enhance science.
In order for the children to operate as successful scientists, we teach a wide range of essential enquiry skills. These skills build upon earlier opportunities they have had to play, explore, create, engage in active learning, and think critically in the Early Years Foundation Stage. To develop their enquiry skills, we encourage the children to ask, as well as answer, scientific questions through activities such as ‘Odd One Out’, where there are numerous answers. By being encouraged to talk about science, our pupils show their substantive knowledge when supporting their ideas and raising further questions. In key stage 2 they progress to being able to form their own hypothesis, set up a fair test and select the variables needed to prove or disprove a hypothesis. They have the opportunity to use a variety of data recording methods, such as statistics, graphs, pictures and photographs.
At Holbrook, we place a great emphasis on the value of discussion both as a means of eliciting children’s prior knowledge but also as a means of collectively constructing new information and knowledge. They take part in role-play and discussions, and they present reports to the rest of the class. They engage in a wide variety of problem-solving activities. Science is not taught as a selection of facts, children are encouraged to question and speculate. Class teachers introduce Big Questions to encourage higher order thinking. This also enables children that are less confident in writing to demonstrate their scientific knowledge. Wherever possible, we involve the pupils in real scientific activities, such as investigating a local environmental problem, such as the erosion of the river banks in Lower Holbrook or classifying the flora and fauna found in our school wood (the Hollow) and investigating how we can protect it from human impact.
We recognise that in all classes, children have a wide range of scientific abilities. We ensure that we provide suitable learning opportunities for all children by matching the challenge of the task to the ability of the child. We achieve this in a variety of ways:
- setting tasks which are open-ended and can have a variety of responses
- setting tasks of increasing difficulty (we do not expect all children to complete all tasks)
- sometimes grouping children by ability and setting different tasks for each ability group
- using mixed-ability groupings to offer support for less able students and more responsibility to higher ability children
- where possible, using teaching assistants to support the work of individual children or groups of children
Impact - We Are Successful Because ..
There are many ways we can showcase the excellent impact our curriculum design has on our pupils. Here are some examples:
- In the Autumn term, children learn about the life cycle of plants through the harvest of vegetables in our thriving school garden.
- Our local environment provides plenty of opportunity for outdoor learning in science. In the Autumn, Lower key stage 2 children walked to Holbrook Bay to investigate the local bedrock, classify the rocks found and hunt for fossils. They looked at the erosion of the river banks to see at first hand the layers of soil and rock, finding evidence of change over thousands of years.
- 3.In November, to link with Black History month all classes learnt about a prominent black scientist who have led the way for others, such as the astronaut Mae Jemison and the chemist Alice Ball.
- To celebrate British Science Week in March, we invite parents with careers in STEM in throughout the week to tell our pupils about their exciting jobs and hopefully to inspire future scientists. We hold a whole school Science Day where pupils move from investigation to investigation throughout the day. This year’s theme was ‘connections’. Years 4,5 and 6 were invited to use Holbrook Academy's science labs to carry out their investigations in a controlled environment.
- To develop our pupils’ understanding of animals and their habitats we have a school pond, rich in water creatures from newts to pond skaters which all classes make use of in the summer months. Forest school area, known as the Hollow is a wonderful place for our young scientists to explore, investigate and learn about the plants that grow there and creatures that depend on them for their survival. Fires are built, giving children the opportunity to explore flammable materials and how burn. Looking down into the Hollow we have a bird hide set up and several sets of good binoculars for our pupils to bird watch. The Hollow offers a great opportunity for links with science across the wider curriculum, such as providing inspiration for creative writing in English lessons, data collecting in Maths or caring for our environment in PSHE.
- Over the past two years we have developed new links with local farmers. Classes can walk to a local farm and gain hands-on experience of the journey food takes from field to fork. This year, we will also visit the Schools’ Farm and Country Fayre at Trinity Park, where pupils gain hands-on experience of animals and farming. In addition to this, we have developed a thriving vegetable garden in our school grounds where our pupils have the opportunity to experience the journey of a vegetable’s life from seed to plate.