What is so special about science anyway?

What do scientists do that is so special?

These articles and resources link with classes 1 and 2 of my Young Scientists course. Unlike my usual lists of resources, these are largely aimed at parents and teachers. There are many texts for reading, with a few lesson plans in there.

If anyone has any good resources that specifically deal with the scientific method and are not articles, blog posts or lesson plans, then please let me know.

1.What is science?

The Understanding Science site from the University of California at Berkeley is a great resource. Here’s their article about what science is.

I’ve used their Mystery Boxes activity a few times and still think it is a good one.

Also see their science checklist here .

2. What do scientists look like?

Let’s get rid of the awful stereotypes of mad, male, white, geeky scientists in white lab coats with glasses and crazy hair. Yes, some scientists fit the stereotype, but science is far more applicable and accessible than that. Here are some pictures of real scientists in many different fields, and information on PBS Kids about what they do in their jobs.

DragonflyTV . Real Scientists   PBS KIDS GO

There’s also a blog called Real Scientists which I’d love to recommend but I don’t think it’s particularly child friendly, unless your child doesn’t mind wading through piles of text. Maybe try looking at the tags #realscientistsofInstagram or #womeninscience on Instagram.

3. Benefits of science

Science impacts all of our lives. You can’t be a ‘science skeptic’, even if you claim not to understand science, because science, and the benefits of science are all around us. (Another page from the University of Berkeley’s Understanding Science website.)

Maybe you could play an informal game with your child where you both think of any area of life and say how science helps us in that area. For example, science helps us to play sports not only by understanding how our body works and how nutrition fuels our muscles, but also by understanding the psychology of visualisation.

Football iu_1996 by Rdikeman at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

4. The scientific method

Science Buddies have an overview with resources and free printable poster. (The image below just shows a section of the poster.)

scientific method poster.pdf

I also liked this explanation by Alina Bradford on livescience.com.

“Science is a systematic and logical approach to discovering how things in the universe work. It is also the body of knowledge accumulated through the discoveries about all the things in the universe.”

– See more at: http://www.livescience.com/20896-science-scientific-method.html#sthash.0mipGXTO.dpuf

How to Make your Science Project Scientific.” This book was great last year for teaching my 10 year old about the scientific method, although it is very wordy with few diagrams or pictures.

5. Asking questions

Read this article from The Guardian (Jan 2014).

6. Quantitative vs qualitative observations

There’s a good lesson here on Teachers pay Teachers.

This cartoon video is a bit annoying but does emphasise the difference between quantitative and qualitative measurements

7. Forming hypotheses

The science kids at home website has a clear and simple explanation of hypotheses.

Here is an activity linked to the ‘Dinosaur Train’ TV program, for younger children, but with adaptation or extension ideas for older children.

Note that the hypothesis formed must be testable and falsifiable. In my classes I ask the children to predict not only what will happen if their hypothesis is correct, but what will happen if their hypothesis is incorrect.


What do you think?

Were these links helpful? I’d love to know what you use to help your primary children understand the scientific method.


Resources about Electricity

Looking for resources about electricity? I’ve gone down many rabbit trails to find the ones I think are the best. See below for videos, hands-on activities, computer games, card games, websites, books and occasionally a worksheet or two. Most of these resources are suitable for middle primary to lower secondary children. The articles at the end are mainly aimed at adults but would be suitable for children who are interested and who don’t mind reading at a high level.

Please comment below if you tried and appreciated these resources, or if you have other resources which you recommend because you have used them before.

Static electricity

To understand static electricity, try this video from How Stuff Works. Or watch the video below where Hank Green from SciShow explains electrostatics as part of his series on the Four Fundamental Forces of Physics.


The Exploratorium in San Francisco has a great hands-on activity where you make an electrophorus – a device for storing charge.

Or try some computer games. There seem to be a few computer games based on the idea of changing the charge on  a particle to move it around a maze with charged obstacles. This one from Molecular Workbench has only one level. Make sure you press Run to get your game started! There’s another one from MIT here but I didn’t manage to get it to run on my computer.

For more information about electricity, including static electricity, try Funology. This site is text based, but the images are also helpful.

Also look at BBC GCSE bitesize – text with some animations. Very good explanations. Note that this site has been archived and it is possible that the BBC will not continue to maintain it at some point in the future.

Current electricity

Here is a largely text based explanation on Explain That Stuff, with helpful images.

Simple circuits and electronics

The Electronics Club website is simply and clearly laid out and very helpful, particularly for  understanding circuit symbols.

In my class I used this handout on TES Australia (also on TES Connect), plus a key with relevant circuit symbols, to see if children could spot errors in simple circuits. Note: You have to register to get access to any TES resources, including the free ones.

Electricity and magnetism

Hank from SciShow explains magnetism with lots of fast talking, not so many visuals.

Try this ‘Circles of Magnetism’ activity from the Exploratorium. If you have enough magnetic compasses it is a great way to see the connection between electricity and magnetism.

A World without Magnets is an infographic about the uses of magnetism.

Electric motor

Once you realise that electricity and magnetism are two aspects of the same thing, you can use electricity to generate motion due to magnetic attraction and repulsion.

Here’s Hank again demonstrating an extremely simple electric motor.

Or if you want a slightly more complex one you could buy this one from Mad About Science. I know they say it is the World’s Simplest Motor but they clearly haven’t been watching YouTube as much as I have.

Electric generator

Electric generators also make use of the interrelation between electricity and magnetism, using a moving magnetic field to generate electricity.

Veritasium video of a very simple electric generator.


Electricity (power) generation

National Geographic has a lesson plan for students to think about electricity generation. http://education.nationalgeographic.org/activity/electrical-energy-source-destination/

I didn’t use the lesson plan above in my Nurture Learning classes. As I said in my last post, we played Energy Trumps cards in the class and I also suggested my students tried the Electrocity game online. The Energy Trumps game came from the Centre for Alternative Technology in the UK, so some of the categories are specific to the UK. I haven’t seen a similar resource for Australia, which is a shame. The link takes you to the CAT resources page. Scroll down to the Energy Trumps subtitle for pdfs of the cards and instructions.

Electricity and safety

Electric Kids lesson plans and  worksheets from Endeavour Energy, written to cover the NSW Science and Technology and PDHPE syllabus for Years 5 and 6 (Stage 3).

Children’s books about electricity

Oscar and the Bird for preschoolers and early primary51j1zrjqxvl-_sy344_bo1204203200_


Electrical Wizard (How Nikolai Tesla lit up the world). Aimed at 7-10 year olds.


The Manga Guide to Electricity. For age 9 and up.


The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind Before William Kamkwamba’s determination to build a windmill for his village in Malawi, only 2% of Malawians had electricity or running water. This Young Readers Edition has been edited for children from about Grade 5 level upwards; there is another book with the same title aimed at children at high school.


More activities

For more activities, including loads of printables, look on teachingideas.co.uk


CSIRO news article about the dangers of fossil fuels

KQED article about storing power from solar electricity generation

KQED article about the Tesla battery factory