Science across Pre-primary to Year 12

Although the curriculum is described year by year, this document provides advice across four year groupings on the nature of learners and the relevant curriculum:

  • Pre-primary – Year 2: typically students from 5 to 8 years of age
  • Years 3–6: typically students from 8 to 12 years of age
  • Years 7–10: typically students from 12 to 15 years of age
  • Senior secondary years: typically students from 15 to 18 years of age.

Pre-primary – Year 2

Curriculum focus: awareness of self and the local world

Young children have an intrinsic curiosity about their immediate world. Asking questions leads to speculation and the testing of ideas. Exploratory, purposeful play is a central feature of their investigations.

In this stage of schooling students' explorations are precursors to more structured inquiry in later years. They use the senses to observe and gather information, describing, making comparisons, sorting and classifying to create an order that is meaningful. They observe and explore changes that vary in their rate and magnitude and begin to describe relationships in the world around them. Students' questions and ideas about the world become increasingly purposeful. They are encouraged to develop explanatory ideas and test them through further exploration.

Years 3–6

Curriculum focus: recognising questions that can be investigated scientifically and investigating them

During these years students can develop ideas about science that relate to their lives, answer questions, and solve mysteries of particular interest to their age group. In this stage of schooling students tend to use a trial-and-error approach to their science investigations. As they progress, they begin to work in a more systematic way. The notion of a 'fair test' and the idea of variables are developed, as well as other forms of science inquiry. Understanding the importance of measurement in quantifying changes in systems is also fostered.

Through observation, students can detect similarities among objects, living things and events and these similarities can form patterns. By identifying these patterns, students develop explanations about the reasons for them. Students' understanding of the complex natural or built world can be enhanced by considering aspects of the world as systems, and how components, or parts, within systems relate to each other. From evidence derived from observation, explanations about phenomena can be developed and tested. With new evidence, explanations may be refined or changed.

By examining living structures, Earth, changes of solids to liquids and features of light, students begin to recognise patterns in the world. The observation of aspects of astronomy, living things, heat, light and electrical circuits helps students develop the concept of a system and its interacting components, and understand the relationships, including the notion of cause and effect, between variables.

Years 7–10

Curriculum focus: explaining phenomena involving science and its applications

During these years, students continue to develop their understanding of important science concepts across the major science disciplines. It is important to include contemporary contexts in which a richer understanding of science can be enhanced. Current science research and its human application motivates and engages students.

Within the outlined curriculum, students should undertake some open investigations that will help them refine their science inquiry skills. The quantitative aspects of students' inquiry skills are further developed to incorporate consideration of uncertainty in measurement. In teaching the outlined curriculum, it is important to provide time to build the more abstract science ideas that underpin understanding.

Students further develop their understanding of systems and how the idea of equilibrium is important in dynamic systems. They consider how a change in one of the components can affect all components of the system because of the interrelationships between the parts. They consider the idea of form and function at a range of scales in both living and non-living systems. Students move from an experiential appreciation of the effects of energy to a more abstract understanding of the nature of energy.

As students investigate the science phenomena outlined in these years, they begin to learn about major theories that underpin science, including the particle theory, atomic theory, the theory of evolution, plate tectonic theory and the Big Bang theory.

Senior secondary years

Curriculum focus: disciplines of science

The senior secondary courses for physics, chemistry, biology, and Earth and environmental science build on prior learning across these areas in Pre-primary to Year 10.