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Unit plans for primary teachers

These unit plans come as Word document downloads that can be easily modified to suit your students’ learning needs or used as they are.

Butterflies (lower primary)
Learn about native and introduced butterflies and their habitats and life cycles. Become a citizen scientist and tag Monarch butterflies, loading details into a national database. Develop capability to communicate using scientific conventions and language through investigating and representing butterfly life cycles.

Butterflies (upper primary)
Learn to classify native and introduced butterflies and investigate their life cycles and defence mechanisms. Become a citizen scientist and tag Monarch butterflies, loading details into a national database. Develop capability to communicate using scientific conventions and language through investigating and representing butterfly life cycles.

Conserving Native Birds (upper primary)
Recognise common adaptations of New Zealand’s native birds, make tracking tunnels to monitor pest populations and consider the costs of conservation from different perspectives. Through engaging with this learning, students use and critique evidence to suggest actions based on scientific information that could lead to the survival of native birds.

The science unit was great fun!! My favourite part was the tracking tunnel. Next year, I wish we will have this much fun with science.

- Year 7 Student

Earthworms (lower primary)
Using the science story Earthworms, this unit is designed to help young children learn about living things using observation. Focusing on the use of scientific terms will help build children’s ability to communicate in science more accurately about their ideas.

Earthworms (upper primary)
Introduce students to New Zealand’s native and introduced earthworms, explore the concept of adaptation and develop students’ observation skills. As students make their observations, they can be encouraged to critique their evidence and provide evidence to support their ideas using a range of scientific representations.

Earthquakes (middle primary, upper primary)
Use analogies, puzzles and models to develop understanding of tectonic plates, plate boundaries and Earth movements. Build students’ ability to interpret representations as they explore the science behind an issue of interest to them.

Fighting Infection – Reducing infection (middle primary, upper primary)
Investigate how some infections spread and how they can be controlled. Through engaging with the range of resources in this unit, students will develop understanding of how science ideas change over time as more accurate evidence is found.

Fighting Infection – The immune system (middle primary, upper primary)
Students explore how their immune system works. At the same time, they will develop their ability to interpret representations and communicate in a range of scientific ways.

Use drama to model heat transfer and combustion, investigate a candle’s flame, identify fire risks and more. Engaging with this unit will develop students’ scientific capability to gather and interpret evidence from a range of sources and then use that evidence to make decisions about using chemical fire retardants.

H2O On the Go (middle primary)
Build a model of the water cycle to show evaporation and precipitation and explore impacting factors such as erosion. Through this investigating and learning, students can build understanding of the systems interacting on Earth. They can explore an aspect of the water cycle that impacts on their local environment and make science-based decisions on possible actions.

I learned so much just from the simple hands-on activities. I gained a deeper understanding of the science, and I was able to pass it on to the children. We had much more in-depth conversations as a result.

- Year 3 Teacher

I had a basic knowledge of the water cycle but doing these activities has given a level of understanding to me, and my classroom, that I had no idea about.

- Year 3 Teacher

Harnessing the Sun (middle primary)
Investigate the effects of heat on colour and build a solar oven while learning to use terminology and concepts associated with solar energy. Using this unit, students can develop their capability to gather and interpret evidence through modelling a situation while using a range of scientific communication approaches.

The sustained collaboration and inquiry among students and their teacher led to the students successfully executing the final task and learning the science of solar cooking.

Researcher in a year 4 class

Observing Water (lower primary)
Use hands-on investigations and drama to explore and model the particle nature of water in solid, liquid and gaseous states and that heat energy is needed to change state. Build capability to gather data and identify patterns as children investigate water and the surface tension of soap bubbles.

Pollination (lower primary, middle primary)
Explore plant life cycles using resources from the science story Seeds, Stems and Spores and identify how flowering plants attract and aid pollinators. Develop children’s understanding that investigating in science often uses modelling and looking for patterns as well as using scientific terms to describe their observations.

Rockets teaching sequence (middle primary, upper primary)
Have fun making simple rockets and learning about how they work. Following the suggested teaching sequence will help students develop investigating in science capabilities that ensure data gathered is accurate and reliable.

Strange Liquids (middle primary)
Experiment with various liquids, including non-Newtonian fluids, to see how their viscosity is changed by stress or force. Consider how science knowledge continues to change with new discoveries. This introduces the idea that investigations in science often use models to find evidence to answer questions about experiences in our world.

You, Me and UV (middle primary)
Learn about the electromagnetic spectrum, positives and negatives of UV radiation, and why New Zealand has higher UV levels. Use UV beads to investigate UV intensity and monitor exposure to UV radiation. Engaging students in this learning sequence will build their capability to use and critique evidence and bring a scientific perspective to decisions about protecting themselves from the Sun’s UV radiation.

Nature of Science

Each unit plan identifies aspects of the Nature of Science (NoS) and develops these within the learning sequence. In choosing a unit to use with a class, a consideration should be the NoS capability your students need to develop.

Activity idea

Here, Year 4 primary teacher, Mary describes how she used and adapted the Harnessing the Sun unit plan.
Adapting learning outcomes and activities for young students