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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.

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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 books

Down the Back of the Chair: Ministry of Education Resource Catalogue

Only some titles are available from the catalogue.


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