Science – The Australian Curriculum
Science provides an empirical way of answering interesting and important questions about the biological, physical and technological world. The knowledge it produces has proved to be a reliable basis for action in our personal, social and economic lives. Science is a dynamic, collaborative and creative human endeavour arising from our desire to make sense of our world through exploring the unknown, investigating universal mysteries, making predictions and solving problems. Science aims to understand a large number of observations in terms of a much smaller number of broad principles. Science knowledge is contestable and is revised, refined and extended as new evidence arises.
The Australian Curriculum: Science provides opportunities for students to develop an understanding of important science concepts and processes, the practices used to develop scientific knowledge, of science’s contribution to our culture and society, and its applications in our lives. The curriculum supports students to develop the scientific knowledge, understandings and skills to make informed decisions about local, national and global issues and to participate, if they so wish, in science-related careers.
In addition to its practical applications, learning science is a valuable pursuit in its own right. Students can experience the joy of scientific discovery and nurture their natural curiosity about the world around them. In doing this, they develop critical and creative thinking skills and challenge themselves to identify questions and draw evidence-based conclusions using scientific methods. The wider benefits of this “scientific literacy” are well established, including giving students the capability to investigate the natural world and changes made to it through human activity.
The science curriculum promotes six overarching ideas that highlight certain common approaches to a scientific view of the world and which can be applied to many of the areas of science understanding. These overarching ideas are patterns, order and organisation; form and function; stability and change; systems; scale and measurement; and matter and energy.
The Australian Curriculum: Science has three interrelated strands: Science Understanding, Science as a Human Endeavour and Science Inquiry Skills.
Together, the three strands of the science curriculum provide students with understanding, knowledge and skills through which they can develop a scientific view of the world. Students are challenged to explore science, its concepts, nature and uses through clearly described inquiry processes.
Science understanding is evident when a person selects and integrates appropriate science knowledge to explain and predict phenomena, and applies that knowledge to new situations. Science knowledge refers to facts, concepts, principles, laws, theories and models that have been established by scientists over time.
The Science Understanding strand comprises four sub-strands. The content is described by year level.
The biological sciences sub-strand is concerned with understanding living things. The key concepts developed within this sub-strand are that: a diverse range of living things have evolved on Earth over hundreds of millions of years; living things are interdependent and interact with each other and their environment; and the form and features of living things are related to the functions that their body systems perform. Through this sub-strand, students investigate living things, including animals, plants, and micro-organisms, and their interdependence and interactions within ecosystems. They explore their life cycles, body systems, structural adaptations and behaviours, how these features aid survival, and how their characteristics are inherited from one generation to the next. Students are introduced to the cell as the basic unit of life and the processes that are central to its function.
The chemical sciences sub-strand is concerned with understanding the composition and behaviour of substances. The key concepts developed within this sub-strand are that: the chemical and physical properties of substances are determined by their structure at an atomic scale; and that substances change and new substances are produced by rearranging atoms through atomic interactions and energy transfer. In this sub-strand, students classify substances based on their properties, such as solids, liquids and gases, or their composition, such as elements, compounds and mixtures. They explore physical changes such as changes of state and dissolving, and investigate how chemical reactions result in the production of new substances. Students recognise that all substances consist of atoms which can combine to form molecules, and chemical reactions involve atoms being rearranged and recombined to form new substances. They explore the relationship between the way in which atoms are arranged and the properties of substances, and the effect of energy transfers on these arrangements.
Earth and Space Sciences
The Earth and space sciences sub-strand is concerned with Earth’s dynamic structure and its place in the cosmos. The key concepts developed within this sub-strand are that: Earth is part of a solar system that is part of a larger universe; and Earth is subject to change within and on its surface, over a range of timescales as a result of natural processes and human use of resources. Through this sub-strand, students view Earth as part of a solar system, which is part of a galaxy, which is one of many in the universe and explore the immense scales associated with space. They explore how changes on Earth, such as day and night and the seasons relate to Earth’s rotation and its orbit around the sun. Students investigate the processes that result in change to Earth’s surface, recognising that Earth has evolved over 4.5 billion years and that the effect of some of these processes is only evident when viewed over extremely long timescales. They explore the ways in which humans use resources from the Earth and appreciate the influence of human activity on the surface of the Earth and the atmosphere
The physical sciences sub-strand is concerned with understanding the nature of forces and motion, and matter and energy. The two key concepts developed within this sub-strand are that: forces affect the behaviour of objects; and that energy can be transferred and transformed from one form to another. Through this sub-strand students gain an understanding of how an object’s motion (direction, speed and acceleration) is influenced by a range of contact and non-contact forces such as friction, magnetism, gravity and electrostatic forces. They develop an understanding of the concept of energy and how energy transfer is associated with phenomena involving motion, heat, sound, light and electricity. They appreciate that concepts of force, motion, matter and energy apply to systems ranging in scale from atoms to the universe itself.
Science as a Human Endeavour
Through science, humans seek to improve their understanding and explanations of the natural world. Science involves the construction of explanations based on evidence and science knowledge can be changed as new evidence becomes available. Science influences society by posing, and responding to, social and ethical questions, and scientific research is itself influenced by the needs and priorities of society. This strand highlights the development of science as a unique way of knowing and doing, and the role of science in contemporary decision making and problem solving. It acknowledges that in making decisions about science practices and applications, ethical and social implications must be taken into account. This strand also recognises that science advances through the contributions of many different people from different cultures and that there are many rewarding science-based career paths.
The content in the Science as a Human Endeavour strand is described in two-year bands. There are two sub-strands of Science as a Human Endeavour. These are:
Nature and development of science: This sub-strand develops an appreciation of the unique nature of science and scientific knowledge, including how current knowledge has developed over time through the actions of many people.
Use and influence of science: This sub-strand explores how science knowledge and applications affect peoples’ lives, including their work, and how science is influenced by society and can be used to inform decisions and actions.
Science Inquiry Skills
Science inquiry involves identifying and posing questions; planning, conducting and reflecting on investigations; processing, analysing and interpreting evidence; and communicating findings. This strand is concerned with evaluating claims, investigating ideas, solving problems, drawing valid conclusions and developing evidence-based arguments.
Science investigations are activities in which ideas, predictions or hypotheses are tested and conclusions are drawn in response to a question or problem. Investigations can involve a range of activities, including experimental testing, field work, locating and using information sources, conducting surveys, and using modelling and simulations. The choice of the approach taken will depend on the context and subject of the investigation.
In science investigations, collection and analysis of data and evidence play a major role. This can involve collecting or extracting information and reorganising data in the form of tables, graphs, flow charts, diagrams, prose, keys, spreadsheets and databases.
The content in the Science Inquiry Skills strand is described in two-year bands. There are five sub-strands of Science Inquiry Skills. These are:
Questioning and predicting: Identifying and constructing questions, proposing hypotheses and suggesting possible outcomes.
Planning and conducting: Making decisions regarding how to investigate or solve a problem and carrying out an investigation, including the collection of data.
Processing and analysing data and information: Representing data in meaningful and useful ways; identifying trends, patterns and relationships in data, and using this evidence to justify conclusions.
Evaluating: Considering the quality of available evidence and the merit or significance of a claim, proposition or conclusion with reference to that evidence.
Communicating: Conveying information or ideas to others through appropriate representations, text types and modes.
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