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Building Science Concepts

Building Science Concepts is a series of 64 booklets for levels 1 to 4 of the curriculum. Each booklet is based around a theme and includes science information for teachers supported by a sequenced series of classroom activities.

Bikes Levers Friction and Motion

Building Science Concepts: Titles and concept overviews  contains a table of all the books in the series which you can search by book title, book number, contextual strand, and curriculum level.

Each title has an associated concept overview in PDF format.

Learn more

About the Building Science Concepts series

The books provide a structured approach for teaching of science concepts. They build students' understanding from simple to more complex scientific ideas, relating them to students' existing understandings of the world around them.

The books:

  • have activities that support students' understanding of specific science concepts (adapt these to suit your learners)
  • include activities from other resources that help develop the selected concepts
  • provide diagnostic activities so you can find out what your students already know
  • include science notes which help you:
    • refresh your science understanding of the topic
    • gain awareness of potential misconceptions your students may bring to the topic
  • allow you to make informed decisions about how far to progress through the concept overview.

Pedagogical features of the Building Science Concepts series

The pedagogical ideas behind the series are based on research into how children learn. The series is designed to help teachers in primary schools build students' understanding of science concepts in steps.

Each book in the series focuses on a topic, and presents a set of concepts about the topic. These link to each other and build concept by concept towards a major concept - a "big idea".

Teaching science concepts in familiar contexts 

  • Students can build their understandings when the context(s) of learning are familiar and meaningful.
  • Some contexts are more helpful than others in regards to challenging and building conceptual thinking in different areas of science.
  • Contexts have been chosen to reflect traditional "favourites" as well as to suggest new possibilities for learning in primary science.

Explicit patterning of how to keep a clear science-conceptual focus while exploring a familiar context. 

  • Concepts within a context are clearly identified so that it is possible to keep a sharp focus on the planned learning.
  • By indicating possible steps for conceptual learning within a topic, the booklets show how students can build their experiences of the world to accommodate increasingly abstract and/or interconnected ideas.

Signalling possible ideas that students might bring to their science learning.

  • Science education research shows that school learning may have no impact on students' personal theories about the world unless these are acknowledged and used as a starting point on which to build.
  • Activities in the series draw on research to anticipate students' likely personal theories.
  • A "what you look for" guide assists teachers to draw out and use students' thinking in their teaching.

Using the series to teach the Nature of Science

Kick-Starting the Nature of Science  (NZCER)

This resource provides ideas on using the Building Science Concepts series to teach the Nature of Science.

Assessment using the ARBs

NZCER | Building science concepts

The Building Science Concepts books are listed on the Assessment Resource Banks (ARBs) website with assessments for each "Big idea".

Additional copies of the Building Science Concepts books

Some titles are still available from Down the Back of the Chair (Ministry of Education online catalogue). Please see the table below for titles.

Availability is subject to change at any time.

Use the MOE reference as the search term in the catalogue.

Title MOE reference
Birds: Structure, Function, and Adaptation MOE12620
Fur, Feathers, and Bark: Animal and Plant Coverings MOE12622
Shadows: Effects of the Absence of Light MOE12626
Flight: Control in the Air MOE12633
Our Star, the Sun: Life and Time in a Solar System MOE12637
Life between the Tides: Sandy Shores, Mudflats, and Rocky Shores MOE12638
Fresh Food: How Food Keeps and Loses Its Freshness MOE12640
Preserving Food: Processes in Food Storage MOE12642
Introducing Metals: The Properties and Uses of Common Metals MOE12649
Is This a Plant?: Introducing the Plant Kingdom MOE12652
Floating and Sinking: How Objects Behave in Water MOE12654
Is This an Animal?: Introducing the Animal Kingdom MOE12656
Spring: Observing Seasonal Changes MOE12660
Keeping Warm: Getting Heat Energy and Keeping It MOE12663
Standing Up: Skeletons and Frameworks MOE12668
Eggs: Mixing, Beating, Crushing, and Heating MOE12674
Ice: Melting and Freezing MOE12675
Rubbish: How Do We Deal with It? MOE12677
Growing Plants Indoors: What an Indoor Plant Needs MOE12680

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