Teaching primary students science can be an effort. However, there are simple ways to bring science into the class, reducing preparation time and increasing quality, hands-on scientific discovery.
To start with, it’s as simple as getting your students into an NOS frame of mind.
What is NOS?
NOS stands for Nature of Science. The Nature of Science is an approach that can be described as a way of thinking, developing thinking and a scientific approach to the natural world.
NOS guides teachers and students towards an understanding that scientific knowledge:
- is subject to change
- is drawn from what we observe in the natural world
- needs evidence to be believed
- has no true ending.
For teachers, using the NOS approach means helping your students understand:
- the difference between a guess, a hypothesis, and a theory
- the varying degrees of confidence in theories (like being very confident in the theory of gravity)
- the need for evidence to believe in things (like if you drop a pen it will fall)
- there are many scientific methods for finding good answers
- for every answer, there’s always another question
For students, it means they are free to explore a whole new way of thinking about what they observe in the natural world. But how can this thinking be modelled in the classroom?
Helping students understand NOS with the 5E Model
For primary teachers and students, NOS can be both simple and bewildering. The 5E Instructional Model can be used within the NOS framework to find answers to questions about the natural world, such as ‘Why are butterflies different colours? or Why do crayons taste bad? Questions like these are the perfect chance to use the 5E model to Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate.
Start by opening up the question to the class
What do they know about the topic? What ideas do they already have? What do they want to know? Why is this a good question?
Ask the class to find answers
Have students explore ways to answer the question. Hands-on learning will usually have the biggest impact, but also have resources available (such as books, web sites and models) to help students explore in multiple modalities.
Let students explain their findings
Ask them why their answer could be the best fit. Were their initial expectations or hypotheses correct?
Give them the chance to research
Whether it’s through homework, books or a trusted website, give them the opportunity to find out more information and elaborate on their findings.
Summarise what’s happened for the class
Repeat the question, and evaluate the answers given. What did students think was the best answer? Why and how did the research change their mind or confirmed their belief?
Then in true NOS fashion, ask the next question…
If it’s butterfly colour, ask about fish colour. If it’s crayons, ask what else might taste bad. These extra questions help students get into the habit of searching for more meaning, questions and answers.
5E Model Lessons
Short and focused NOS thinking is a great way for students to get into the practice of critical thinking – but the end goal of a good science lesson is to give your students a hands-on experience that they’ll want to tell their parents about.
Need help teaching science in your primary class?
We’ve got you covered – check out our page of science resources here:
More from the blog…
STEM is the key to the future, and the future is in the hands of our children…which can put a lot of pressure on primary teachers to get their heads and minds across the S
Teaching primary students science can be an effort. However, there are simple ways to bring science into the class, reducing preparation time and increasing quality, hands-on scientific discovery. To start with, it's as simple as
Contextualised teaching and learning is the practice that answers the three most common student questions: ‘Why are we doing this?’ ‘When will I use this?’ ‘Is it in the exam?’ In other words –
Aims of the Australian Science Curriculum – Australian Curriculum
New Zealand Science Curriculum – New Zealand Ministry of Education
Describing the nature of science – Science Learning Hub
The Nature of Science and Keeping Students Engaged – The Conversation
The Nature of Science – Virginia Science Standards Institute
The Nature of Science in Science Education: An Introduction