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Takahē: Back from the Brink Capability: Use evidence NoS achievement aims: Understanding about science Contextual strands: Living world Level : 5

Author: Bill O’Brien. Applications, 2007

This resource illustrates how an Applications story 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.


Understand that scientists’ investigations are informed by current scientific theories and aim to collect evidence that will be interpreted through processes of logical argument.

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.


Explore how the groups of living things we have in the world have changed over long periods of time and appreciate that some living things in New Zealand are quite different from living things in other areas of the world.

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

Page 5 documents the rediscovery of takahē when they were thought to be extinct. It describes the initial evidence that led to the rediscovery and the multiple pieces of additional evidence that the amateur ornithologists had to produce to convince the scientific community that their discovery was valid.

Adapting the resource

The main Nature of Science idea to be gained from this summary page is that multiple sources of evidence that reinforce each other are more convincing than single sources, especially when the claim being made is controversial.

After reading the story ask:

  • What was the existing knowledge about the New Zealand takahē? [It was thought to be extinct.]
  • What was the first evidence that suggested that this might not be right? [An unidentified bird call, and an unusual foot print in the snow.]
  • Was this enough evidence to say that it was? Why or why not? [No, because it might have been an atypical call made by a known bird (or the hearer might have been mistaken – especially as this was a discovery he really wanted to make), the print might have been a fake, or made by a different bird species, etc.]

Over time more evidence was collected.

  • What was this evidence? [Evidence of plant damage from feeding, unusual droppings, an actual bird that was caught and filmed.]

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 catch the takahē, even though they knew it was an endangered species? [So that they could create a clear film that was obviously not a fake.]
  • What might they have done next that is not mentioned in this story? [Published their claim for the critique and ultimate acceptance of other ornithologists.]

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

What’s important here?

In science, explanations need to be supported by evidence that is based on, or derived from, observations of the natural world. Students need to understand that when claims are contentious, single sources of evidence are likely to be insufficient to make a convincing case. When multiple forms of evidence point to the same explanation, the case is more likely to be accepted by scientists.

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

There is a very similar story about the storm petrel in a Connected article that is used as the basis for the capability 2 resource, A Bird in the Hand.

Other resources for this capability

Key words

Applications, endangered species