The primary science National Curriculum says that children should ‘develop their understanding of scientific ideas by using different types of scientific enquiry to answer their own questions, including observing changes over a period of time, noticing patterns, grouping and classifying things, carrying out simple comparative tests, and finding things out using secondary sources of information.’
Most teachers are very familiar with the notion of carrying out fair tests, but I wonder how many of them plan for observing over time, or do it anyway without realising it. In their very helpful book ‘It’s not fair – or is it? a guide to developing children’s ideas through primary science enquiry’, Turner et al, share the following pointers for observing over time:
- Observing over time helps us identify and measure events and changes in living things, materials and physical processes and events.
- Observations may take place over time spans from minutes or hours, to several weeks or months.
- Observing over time provides opportunities for children to be actively involved in making decisions about what and how to observe and measure, and the best ways to record the changes that occur.
- These types of enquiries provide rich contexts for children to learn about the importance of cycles, systems, growth and decay, and other types of changes.
As the signs of spring are getting stronger everyday, and because I do love a daffodil, I thought I’d take the opportunity to do a little bit of observing over time with a 99p bunch of daffodils from the local supermarket. We watched these little beauties changing over a period of 12 days, taking 1 photo a day, and using PicCollage to put our timeline together. I think the result is great! It really shows how the daffodils have changed over time. It would be interesting to continue to watch what happens after day 12 if they were placed on the compost heap.
As science week draws ever closer and teachers are rushing to find things to do, why not suggest this simple little activity? It provides for a multitude of scientific skills e.g. observing, describing, comparing, measuring (if you want to), predicting, explaining and communicating, all for the price of 99p, and the effort of buying some daffodils and sticking them in a jam jar at the front of the class. Take one picture a day, get the children to tell you what they notice, write it on the IWB alongside the photo, and make a class big book at the end of the week/fortnight.
Why not make a whole school project of it and show progression in science across school? It would make a great display to have pupil paintings of daffodils, alongside photos, comments, predictions, descriptions and explanations. For a bit of secondary research, why not find out more about daffodil growing in the UK?
And don’t forget, a bit of Wordsworth is always good…