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Concepts – Science

At East Dene Primary we have identified key concepts which thread across the science curriculum. In addition to this, the subject leader has also identified subject specific second order concepts. These can be used across all aspects of a subject to organise the substantive knowledge and skills taught.

Key concepts:

Through the science curriculum, pupils will develop an understanding of the following key concepts. These concepts are revisited through different units as pupils move through the school. By the end of primary school, children will know and understand these key concepts.


  • Organisms require a supply of energy and materials: Living things are special collections of matter that reproduce, use energy and grow. Food provides materials and energy for life and growth. Plants and bacteria use energy from the sun to generate food. Animals break down food and are ultimately dependant on green plants for energy. In any ecosystem there is competition for the energy and materials needed to live and reproduce.
  • Genetic information: Genetic information is passed down from one generation of organisms to another. Genes determine the development and structure of organisms
  • Evolution: The diversity of organisms is the result of evolution. Different kinds of life, animals, plants and microorganisms, have evolved into different forms best suited to the environments in which they live. Organisms not able to respond sufficiently to changes in their environment become extinct


  • All matter (stuff) in the universe is made of tiny building blocks
  • Materials (properties and changes): The arrangement, movement and types of building blocks of matter, and the forces that hold them together/push them apart, explain all the properties of matter (eg: hot/cold, soft/hard, light/heavy etc…)
  • States of matter: Matter can change if the arrangement of these building blocks change (eg: chemical reactions)


  • The universe follows unbreakable rules that are all about forces, matter and energy
  • Forces are different kinds of pushes and pulls that act on all the matter in the universe. Changing the movement of an object requires a force to be acting on it. Gravity is a universal force of attraction between all objects, however large or small
  • Energy: There are many different forms of energy eg: light, sound, electricity, heat and wind. Energy can be transferred from one object to another and can cause changes. The total amount of energy in the universe is always the same but energy can be transformed when things change or are made to happen

Earth Science

  • The earth in relation to the universe: The Earth is one of 8 planets orbiting the sun. Our solar system is a very small part of one of millions of galaxies in the universe.
  • The earth spins on its axis: The Earth is tilted and spins on its axis leading to day and night, the seasons and climate

Enquiry strategies

As part of working scientifically which is embedded throughout all units, pupils will also learn to use a variety of enquiry strategies to answer scientific questions. Different questions lead to different types of enquiry and are not limited to fair testing. By the end of primary school, children will be able to use these enquiry strategies confidently and know that different strategies may be needed at different times.

  • Observing over time: (observing or measuring how one variable changes over time)
  • Identifying and classifying: (identifying and naming materials/living things and making observations or carrying out tests to organise them into groups.)
  • Looking for patterns: (making observations or carrying out surveys of variables that cannot be easily controlled and looking for relationships between two sets of data)
  • Comparative and fair testing: (observing or measuring the effect of changing one variable when controlling others)
  • Answering questions using secondary sources of evidence: (answering questions using data or information that they have not collected first hand)

As well as this, pupils will learn about:

  • Using models: (Developing or evaluating a model or analogy that represents a scientific idea, phenomenon or process)

Second order concepts:

Through each unit of science, the following second order concepts are explored. These can be used across all aspects of a subject to organise the substantive knowledge taught.

  • Responsibility: (working safely, how science can solve problems, climate change and sustainability)
  • Similarity and difference: (making comparisons, finding patterns, noting differences and drawing conclusions)
  • Cause and consequence: (models and laws, reactions between materials, observing processes)
  • Continuity and change: (observing what changes and what stays the same)
  • Significance: (significant scientists, discoveries, laws, models and theories)
  • Written and oral expression: (Using scientific terminology, evaluation, drawing conclusions, objectivity, explaining processes, describing and explaining patterns, presenting and interpreting data)

By the end of EYFS, children will:

Explore the natural world around them, making observations and drawing pictures of animals and plants.

Know some similarities and differences between the natural world around them and contrasting environments, drawing on their experiences and what has been read in class.

Understand some important processes and changes in the natural world around them, including the seasons and changing states of matter.

By the end of Key Stage 1, children will:

By the end of KS1, basic fundamentals of the biology strand have been established. Pupils explore animals, humans and changes within environments and begin to develop simple scientific vocabulary linked to this. Children use different types of scientific enquiry to answer a range of questions. Children are encouraged to ask questions, discuss their findings and present their ideas in a variety of ways.

By the end of key stage 2, children will:

By the end of KS2, pupils have a deep understanding of a range of scientific ideas. Children are able to link scientific ideas to the world around them and, through research, understand how scientific ideas are developed over time. Children use secondary sources of information and purposeful, practical enquiry to draw conclusions and find things out.