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Connections through science

As teachers of science, we know that science is relevant to just about everything. But we cannot assume that our students know this. And if we teach our subject in isolation of other subjects and from everyday, familiar contexts, they may never come to know it.

One of the founding principles of the New Zealand Curriculum is that all students are offered a broad education that makes thematic, culturally responsive links within and across learning areas, provides for coherent transitions, and opens up pathways to further learning.

Connecting learning across a wide range of experiences can inspire students.

It is exciting to recognise common themes and to find that knowledge and skills gained in one area support learning in another. When students discover that this is happening, their sense of what is relevant expands and they find themselves gaining confidence in their ability to tackle new challenges.

Students also need to see how their learning in science connects to life outside and beyond school. Making such connections explicit can be a powerful motivating tool.

Co-operating to make subject connections explicit

Teachers can work with their colleagues from other learning areas to explore how their subjects could complement and support one another.

This collaboration could be as simple a statistics teacher coming into a science class to consult with students during the design stage of a senior investigation.

Several teachers could be involved in planning a cross-curricular sequence or unit with a focus on specific key competencies and values under a common theme. For example, teachers from science, english, mathematics and statistics, history, and social studies could come together to develop a programme on sustainability.

Cross-curricular programmes require schools to be flexible in planning and implementation, for example:

  • Teachers hold cross-curricular planning sessions each term, as well as during the end-of-year curriculum review.
  • A school plans a cross-curricular programme for a single year group or the whole school.
  • A school collapses its timetable for a limited period (perhaps as little as three days or as much as two weeks) or for a specified time each week.
  • A programme is taught using a team approach, whereby teachers from different learning areas come together to plan a learning programme and then teach sections of it within their specialist areas. Alternatively, teachers could plan individual schemes of work around a common theme and help students in each subject make explicit connections with other areas of study.
  • Assessment opportunities from science and other subjects are offered, with students making choices based on their needs. The level 6 literacy and numeracy unit standards offer obvious connections.

Connections beyond the school environment

Consider bringing the world into the classroom by:

  • using media technology to follow breaking scientific news, such as extreme weather events, natural disasters
  • using local guest speakers, for example, blood donation worker, titi harvester, whitebait fisher, FutureIntech speaker
  • taking the classroom into the world through a field trip, for example, to a winery, gannet colony, power station, medical laboratory, museum, zoo
  • engaging in an online field trip, for example, LEARNZ
  • using university institutions, for example the Anatomy Museum (University of Otago), Liggins Institute (Auckland), Marine Laboratories
  • linking to local primary production and their supporting industries
  • exploring technological developments and innovation in Aotearoa New Zealand, for example using the Science Learning Hub.

Last updated May 6, 2013