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A Bird in the Hand Capability: Use evidence NoS achievement aims: Understanding about science Contextual strands: Living world Level : 3,4

Author: Sarah Lowe. Connected 3, 2007, pages 20–27.

This resource illustrates how a Connected article can be used to provide opportunities for students to strengthen their capability to use evidence to support ideas in the context of science.

Curriculum Aims and AOs

The Nature of Science strand


Achievement objectives relevant to this resource

Understanding about Science

Learn about science as a knowledge system: the features of scientific knowledge and the processes by which it is developed; and learn about the ways in which the work of scientists interacts with society.

L3 & 4:

Appreciate that science is a way of explaining the world and that science knowledge changes over time.

Identify ways in which scientists work together and provide evidence to support their ideas.

Living World


Achievement objectives relevant to this resource


Understand the processes that drive change in groups of living things over long periods of time and be able to discuss the implications of these changes.

L3 & 4:

Begin to group plants, animals, and other living things into science-based classifications.

Learning focus

Students recognise that, for new ideas to be accepted by the science community, scientists share their ideas and evidence with other scientists.

Learning activity

This article is about the rediscovery of a bird that was thought to be extinct. It describes the rigorous procedures the scientists involved had to go through to provide proof of their discovery before it was accepted by the scientific community.

Adapting the resource

The main ideas to be gained from this story are:

  • Science ideas change as more information comes to light.
  • Scientists have to follow a set of protocols before a new idea is accepted.
  1. After reading the story ask:
    • What was the existing knowledge about the New Zealand storm petrel? [It was thought to be extinct.]
    • What was the first evidence that suggested that this might not be right? [The photograph of a bird with different markings from white-faced storm petrels.]
    • Was this enough evidence to say that it was? Why or why not? [No, because it may have been a poor photograph, it might have been just one bird with unusual markings, it might have been a different species that no-one had ever seen, etc.]
  2. Over time more evidence was collected. What was this evidence? [Another photograph with ten of these birds, other sightings and a capture, DNA from the blood samples from the captured bird were compared with DNA from preserved specimens.]
  3. Finally, the role of communication in this process could be discussed to develop the idea that changing the status of science knowledge is brought about by a community of scientists, rather than just someone working in isolation, so the evidence has to be very convincing.


  • Why did they email their photographs? [To see if anyone had any ideas about what the bird might be.]
  • How did publishing an article in Birding World contribute? [Other people became interested in their research.]
  • Why did they need to submit a report to OSNZ? [They needed to present all their evidence so the science community could decide if they had good enough evidence.]

When the evidence has been through this level of peer review it is more trustworthy (this relates to capability 3).

What’s important here?

Science is a way of explaining the world. In science explanations need to be supported by evidence that is based on, or derived from, observations of the natural world.

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?

Do students show some understanding that:

  • Science knowledge is not static, but changes as more evidence emerges.
  • When we have more data we can be surer of our conclusions.
  • Scientists have to convince other scientists by providing evidence to support their new ideas.
  • New ideas are not validated until they have been accepted by the wider science community.

Opportunities to learn at different curriculum levels

For suggestions about adapting tasks in ways that allow students to show progress in using evidence to support ideas see Progressions .

Exploring further

A very similar story about the takahē, from Applications, has been used as the basis for a (level 5) capability 2 resource called Takahē: Back from the Brink.

Other resources for this capability

Key words

Connected, endangered species