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Spring is a Season: How Living Things Respond to Seasonal Changes Capability: Interpret representations NoS achievement aims: Communicating in science Contextual strands: Planet Earth and beyond Level : 3,4

Building Science Concepts, Booklet 44

This resource illustrates how a Building Science Concepts activity can provide opportunities for students to strengthen their capability to make sense of representations in the context of science.

Curriculum Aims and AOs

The Nature of Science strand


Achievement objectives relevant to this resource

Communicating in science

Develop knowledge of the vocabulary, numeric and symbol systems, and conventions of science and use this knowledge to communicate about their own and other’s ideas.

L3 & 4:

Begin to use a range of scientific symbols, conventions and vocabulary.


Investigating in science

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

L3 & 4:

Ask questions, find evidence, explore simple models and carry out appropriate investigations to develop simple explanations.

Planet Earth and Beyond


Achievement objectives relevant to this resource

Astronomical cycles

Gain an understanding of the astronomical cycles that are found in the universe.

L3 & 4:

Investigate the components of the solar system, developing an appreciation of the distance between them.

Learning focus

Students critique a model that represents the earth orbiting the sun.

Learning activity

Section 2 of this booklet (pages 10-13) includes a number of activities designed to provide opportunities for students to investigate the patterns and trends associated with seasonal change.

Adapting the resource

In activity 2, page 11, a model is used to demonstrate what causes seasonal change on earth. This activity could be adapted to focus student attention on the model itself as well as the science concepts the model illustrates.

For example, ask the students:

  • What does the lamp represent? [The sun.]
  • What does one circuit of the globe around the lamp represent? [A year.]
  • What idea does this model illustrate? [Seasonal changes are linked to the relative position of the Earth to the sun.]
  • In what ways is the model the same as the real thing? How is it different? [Examples: the model and the real thing are the same in that the lamp/sun are both stationary and the globe/Earth both move around the lamp/sun; they are different in that the lamp is small/cool and the sun is huge/hot.]
  • Why might models be useful in trying to understand astronomy? [Models can be useful when things are too big or too far away or change too slowly to observe directly.]

What’s important here?

Scientists represent their ideas in a variety of ways, including models, graphs, charts, diagrams and written texts. At this level, the important thing is to focus students’ attention on the fact that different representations have different purposes, and scientists choose the best way of clearly illustrating an idea. All models are similar in some ways and different in some ways to the thing they represent.

Understanding and using the literacy practices of science supports students to think in new ways and 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?

Can students identify the strengths and limitations of a specific model?

Do students realise how models can be used to help explain 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  Progressions .

Exploring further

This activity involves comparing and contrasting a model with the “real thing” that it represents. This would be a suitable activity whenever models are used in science. The activity could be as simple as unpacking a metaphor, e.g., “The heart is a pump.” In what ways are the heart and a pump similar? How are they different?

When a model has several parts it can be useful to check that students know what each part represents before comparing and contrasting. See, for example, the Assessment Resource Banks:  Investigating the water cycle  and  Where did the water go? .

Other resources for this capability

Watch Me! (L1) Ready to Read series 2009, Guided Reading level: yellow

Seeds (L1 & 2) Connected 1, 1999

Light and Colour: Our Vision of the World (L1 & 2) Building Science Concepts, Booklet 10

Standing Up: Skeletons and Frameworks (L1 & 2) Building Science Concepts, Booklet 51

An Interview with a Glass of Water (L3 & 4) Connected 2, 2002

Ferns (L3 & 4) Connected 3, 2002

Why Does It Always Rain on Me? (L3 & 4) Connected, Level 3, 2012

The Air around Us: Exploring the Substance We Live in (L4) Building Science Concepts, Booklet 30

Catch My Drift (L4 & 5) Connected, Level 4, 2012

Bioaccumulation interactive (L5) Science Learning Hub

The elements: element analyser interactive (L5) Digistore on TKI

Garden Bird Survey: Participants’ Stories (L5) Landcare Research webpage

The Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (L5) GNS Science webpage

Key words

Building Science Concepts, space