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The Land Changes: Keeping Earth’s Systems in Balance to Sustain Life Capability: Gather & Interpret data NoS achievement aims: Investigating in science Contextual strands: Planet Earth and beyond Level : 1,2

Building Science Concepts, Booklet 52

This Building Science Concepts booklet provides opportunities “for children to understand that the landscape is continuously changing”. It also provides many opportunities to stress the difference between observation and inference, strengthening students’ capability to gather and interpret data in the context of science.

Curriculum Aims and AOs

The Nature of Science strand


Achievement objectives relevant to this resource

Investigating in science

Carry out scientific investigations using a variety of approaches: classifying and identifying, pattern seeking, exploring, investigating models, fair testing, making things or developing systems.

L1 & 2:

Extend their experiences and personal explanations of the natural world through exploration, play, asking questions, and discussing simple models.

Planet Earth and Beyond strand


Achievement objectives relevant to this resource

Interacting systems

Investigate and understand that the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere are connected via a complex web of processes.

L1 & 2:

Describe how natural features are changed and resources affected by natural events and human actions.

Learning focus

Students differentiate between observations and inferences.

Learning activity

In Section 2, Activity 1 (page 10) students in Levels 1 & 2 look at past and present day photos of the school to identify changes. These changes are then put in a chart:

What has changed?

How has it changed?

What do we think caused the change?

What is the effect of the change?

The tree It has grown. Time and conditions that allow growth There is a shady place in the playground.

Adapting the resource:

Once the chart has been filled in, lead a class discussion that focuses students’ attention on the difference between observations (what I see) and inferences (what I think). Being able to differentiate is more important than being able to use the word “observation” or “inference”.

Column 1 contains observations. (what students can see in the photos)

Column 2 could contain an observation or an inference.

Column 3 contains inferences. (Students have to think about their observations to make meaning.)

Column 4 could contain an observation or an inference.

Inferences often lead us into new investigations. These investigations in turn require the gathering of more data, which in turn are the basis of further inferences. (This is the dynamic and self-correcting nature of science.) For young children, the thinking routine  “See, think, wonder”  is a useful way to differentiate between observation, inference and investigation.

“I see” (observation)

“I think” (inference)

“I wonder” (going further)

What’s important here?

Encouraging young children to observe closely is laying an important foundation for further learning in science. The ability to differentiate between observation and inference is a useful tool for trying to critique scientific arguments in our everyday lives.

Developing an appreciation of what counts as evidence in science supports students to become scientifically literate, i.e., to participate as critical, informed, and responsible citizens in a society in which science plays a significant role. (This is the purpose of science in NZC.)

What are we looking for?

When you ask, “What do you see?”

When you ask, “What do you think?”

Do students limit their answers to things that are observable?

How much detail do they include?

Do students support their ideas with their observations?

Do they draw on a number of observations to support their ideas?

Opportunities to learn at different curriculum levels

For suggestions about adapting tasks in ways that allow students to show progress in gathering and interpreting data see Learning at different curriculum levels .

Exploring further

This activity can be adapted to any contexts where students are observing photos or video clips.

Other resources for this capability

Key Words

Building Science Concepts, land forms