When five science teachers get together to discuss what science teaching (or learning) should be across the school, it makes for a rambling, shapeless and extended discussion over many months. This is so at least in the initial stages, when pet theories are aired, favourite experiments put forward, experiences shared and everything scrutinised in the light of the intent of the school. However, gradually a curriculum document that reflects our collective concerns begins to take shape. This is what happened at CFL (Centre for Learning) when we attempted to document a science curriculum for the school. In this article I would like to share the outlines of the science programme for pre- secondary students that emerged.

The objectives of having a formal curriculum document are:

  • To put down on paper what exists in the minds of the teachers teaching the programme.
  • To share with others the rationale behind the thinking.
  • To critically evaluate the effectiveness of the programme with the help of those not involved in its teaching.

The curriculum document first sets out the general objectives that the programme hopes to achieve and then outlines the methods, materials and topicsthat can be used to achieve it.

At the outset we clarify that any subject that is studied as sciencemust havecertain underlying characteristics with regard to its content and purpose.

  • Science involves the observation of the external world through the senses and with instruments that extend the scope of the senses.
  • It asks specific questions - qualitative and quantitative - regarding any phenomena observed.
  • It attempts to explain these phenomena and establish causal relationships through experimentation.
  • It uses the laws so established in developing technology.

It is clear to us that this process necessarily produces only a partial picture of the world, both because of experimental limitations and because social and emotional factors are deliberately ignored in science. This is something to be kept in mind while implementing the curriculum and addressing the issues raised in the classroom. We also feel that it is important to convey to the students that science deals with building a model of the universe, to be modified andreworked if it does not fit. Whereas reality is, models are always provisional.


The following list of experiences, skills and abilities can be divided into two parts; a core list thatwould be expected of all students by the end of eight to nine years of study, and a list of higher order skills that could be recommended for and expected from students who are more inclined to pursue science at a higherlevel.

Core experiences and skills

  1. Learning to observe or learning the art of observation. This is probably the most basic skill required and it cuts across all disciplines, whether it is the sciences or the humanities. It is possibly the most difficult one to teach. In operational terms, itwould mean paying attention . without quick expectation of results . to any kind of phenomena.
  2. Familiarity with ordinary materials, chemicals, and organisms.
  3. Some engagement with ordinary materials, chemicals, and organisms.
  4. Some engagement with everyday technology, for example, zippers, bulbs, electronics.
  5. Developing skills in drawing, tinkering, carpentry and model-making.
  6. Developing skills in handling instruments, equipment, and chemicals.
  7. Learning safety procedures.
  8. Appropriate writing skills.

This requires practice and definitive work on the part of the teacher tocorrect mistakes without sacrificing individual modes of expression.

  1. Collecting and tabulating data by drawing graphs or constructing tables.
  2. Appropriate analysis of the data collected. This is often dependent on mathematical ability. Sometimes it requires ingenuity and mathematical sophistication and may involve a conceptual jump.
  3. Capacity for questioning, that is, not taking things for granted. This too is a difficult skill to inculcate, as it requires considerable mental alertness and patience. It cannot be taught and can only be exemplified and nurtured.
  4. Reasonable knowledge of basic science terminology and history.
  5. Looking at science with a sense of perspective.

This is probably much needed nowadays. An excessive regard/disregard for science and technology would lead to a lopsided view of things. Any science program ought to bring out the appropriate and inappropriate use - in small andbig ways - of scientific knowledge.

Higher order skills

For the more scientifically inclined student, these are key skills:

  1. Deduction, induction based on analysis.
  2. Ability to connect various aspects of science.
  3. Self-study and ability to carry out independent investigations

Keeping these objectives in mind, what would an integrated science programme be across nine to ten years of study in a school (from kindergarten to class 8 level)? The consensus that emerged out of this question is describedbelow.

The stage of observation, play and tinkering

For the first three to four years of schooling (ages 6 - 10), the emphasis is on observation, especially of the natural world. The junior school curriculum includes long walks and gardening. As a useful adjunct to this, there can be a science corner containing magnifying glasses, magnets, balances (both pan and spring), and pulley blocks for the children to play with. In addition, non-working or even working items such as torches, radios, and clocks can be kept for childrento tinker with, take apart and play with.

The stage of investigation

For the ages 10 - 12, the science programme needs to be tailored to match both growing mathematical skills and widening interest in materials and various natural phenomena. Here other areas of the core experiences and skills, aimed at fostering a closer contact and investigation, are added to the central thread of observation. The difficulty of finding ready-to-use material (since setting up an experimental programme is usually beyond the scope of any one teacher) has fortunately been overcome by locating The Cambridge Science Cards (ExploringScience and Technology), which are tailor-made for this age-group.

The stage of formal experimentation, concepts and theories

For the next age group, 12 - 14 years, the science programme consists of definite experiments and projects in the three basic science subjects, namely, physics, biology and chemistry, keeping in mind that they will start a formal curriculum in these subjects when they enter the next age-group. The topicsfrom which the experiments are drawn in each of these areas are listed below:


This sequence of experiments has been chosen in order to develop measurement skills and to introduce the students to the sorts of questions asked in any scientific study. The possibility of connections with biological systems can also be explored. Reading material could be given in the form of cards that are contextual and that contain some history along with the basicsubject matter.

Density1. Density

  • Introduction to the concepts of length, area and volume and its additive properties. Importance of units.
  • Weight and measurement of weight.
  • Densities of regular shapes.
  • Types of soils and their water retention capacities.
  • Archimedes' principle. Densities of irregular and composite objects.

2. Electricity and Magnetism

  • Playing with magnets.
  • Introducing the Worcester circuit board and construction of simple circuits involving bulbs connectors, batteries and switches.
  • ElectricityMaking an electromagnet.
  • Introducing the concept of a current and making a current meter.

3. Static Electricity

  • Simple and easy experiments investigating the properties of charges.

Thermometer4. Heat Experiments

  • Use of a thermometer.
  • Boiling and melting points of simple substances.
  • Crude calorimetry by burning nuts to see howmuchwater they heat up.
  • Change in boiling points of solutions (salt and sugar).

5. Moment of a force

  • Finding the laws of moments and noting the ways in which they can be expressed.

6. Extension of a spring

  • Finding the spring law through measurement.


1. Classification

  • Of plants and animals using a simple key.

Microscope2. Microscopy

  • How to set up and use a microscope.
  • Drawing of objects observed under a microscope.

3. Food and Diet

  • Food tests for carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
  • Following a day's intake of food.
  • Worksheet on a balanced diet.

Skeleton4. The human skeleton

  • Making a papier-maché skeleton and naming the bones.

5. Senses

  • Experiments on sight and sound, taste, smell, balance and reflex action.

6. Plant growth

  • Experiments on germination, growth, dispersal of seeds, vegetative reproduction, grafting.
  • Soil testing.

Plant7. Ecology

  • Study of a plot of land, tree or bush.
  • Nature drawing.


1. Acids and Bases
  • Simple classification into acids and bases using indicators.
  • Making and testing of floral indicators.

Separation of mixtures2. Methods of separation of mixtures
  • Decantation, filtration, distillation, separating funnel.
  • Chromatography.

3. Crystal growing

Funnel4. Everyday chemistry
  • Making of soap, toothpaste, perfume, gunpowder, rayon.
  • Studying an analogue of the chemistry of photography.

Geology5. Worksheets on experiments with chemicals

  • Gases: air, water, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide.
  • The activity series of metals.

6. An observation / deduction exercise on identifying unknown substances.

7. Geology

  • Observation of surrounding rocks and identification using a key. Some study of the formation of rocks.

To extend and enrich this programme there should be a conscious effort to point out the links with other areas and subjects.

We felt that with this background, when children come to the age group of 14 - 16 they would be ready to enter a formal course of study, leading to certification.

A brief note on evaluation

The other major point of discussion, which can occupy an equal amount of space, is that of evaluation. Evaluation is necessary and helpful to the learner as guidance in his/her learning, and for the teacher as a feedback about the students and the programme itself. We asked ourselves, what is an evaluation, which is meaningful without being judgemental?

For us, some basic areas of evaluation are:

  1. Ability to comprehend instructions.
  2. Ability to perform the experiments.
  3. Ability to present data neatly.
  4. Ability towork cooperatively.

These are applicable for all students. For those with an inclination andinterest towards science, they should also be able to:

  1. Recognize concepts in different situations.
  2. Apply concepts to other areas.
  3. 'Play'. with the concepts.

How these points are to be recognized and quantified are questions that continue to occupy us as teachers.

This curriculum was put together by Kanti Jain, Radhika Neelakantan, Richard Fernandes, K. Srinivasan, and Yasmin Jayathirtha.

'I hear, I know. I see, I remember. I do, I understand.'


'The doer alone learneth.'

[Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche]