Teaching Primary Science
The project Teaching Primary Science was sponsored jointly by the Nuffield Foundation and the Social Science Research Council, between 1970 and 1975. It produced ten books published by Macdonald Educational between 1975 and 1978. These included an introduction and guide to the series and nine books on various topics chosen to build on children’s and teachers’ interests.
The series was written specifically for class teachers and teachers in training, to help those with little background knowledge in science to develop skills and confidence in teaching science to children aged 5 to 13. The aim was to help teacher move away from ‘watered down secondary science’ to active practical experiences for children. Many of the books pay particular attention to work for younger pupils.
The books for teachers were designed to enable them to provide children in their early school years with many small practical experiences with materials from which they would be able to understand the more abstract and complex ideas they are expected to deal with in the secondary school and after. The emphasis was, however, on activity and development of skills and attitudes. It is asserted that ‘Facts learnt at this stage, however useful, are much less important than activities and attitudes’. Some of the books refer explicitly to the objectives of the Science 5/13 project, with which Teaching Primary Science overlapped for some time in first half of the 1970s.
The titles of the nine topics were chosen to appeal to teachers with expertise in other areas of the curriculum, such as art or music. They are:
Seeds and seedlings
Science from water play
Fibres and fabrics,
Mirrors and magnifiers
Science from wood
Paints and materials
Each book contains helpful ideas about starting points, about children's recording and vocabulary, about the use of work cards, and about connections linking science with other parts of school work. The general approach is to develop scientific skills which are identified as observing carefully, thinking about what is observed, making sensible guesses based on observations, testing these guesses to see if they work, changing the guesses if they do not work, and in general trying to think logically. Most, but not all, books have an index.
At a time when there was growing expectation that pupils should at least have 'done some science' by the age of 11, many teachers of younger pupils were insecure in their knowledge of science and how to teach it. The information and help given in the books is intended particularly for non-science teachers, many of whom had little help with science work at Infant, First, Junior and Middle School levels in their teacher training.