Silhouette of figure in front of planet

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

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Animals, Biodiversity & Habitats, Electricity, Energy, Evolution & Inheritance, Forces, Properties & Uses of Materials, Rocks, Fossils and Soils

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Cross-curricular, Practical Science, Science Enquiry, Scientists and their work

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5-7, 7-9, 9-12

Introducing historic and contemporary scientists' discoveries into the primary classroom through practical investigations.

Cross-curricular links between history and science are really valuable in the primary classroom, but how much of the focus is on developing scientific understanding and the skills of working scientifically? Standing on the Shoulders of Giants offers a series of engaging practical investigations based on the scientific work of a historic figure that encourage children to generate their own questions to explore and develop their understanding further. The resource links the work of 10 famous historic scientists to the work of contemporary scientists, giving children an appreciation of how wider scientific understanding develops over time.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants was written by Dr. Alex Sinclair and Amy Strachan from St Mary’s University and PSTT Fellow Dr. Alison Trew and edited by Sue Martin (Programme Director).

The book

What's included in the book?

Included in the resource for each of 10 historic scientists and their contemporary counterparts:

  • A Teacher Guide (the printed book) outlining learning objectives, resources required and a practical activity to carry out with the children. Extension activities, vocabulary and focus questions are included.
  • A Classroom Presentation (downloadable resource) that guides you through the scientist’s work, the nature of their enquiry and how a contemporary scientist has developed ideas.
  • 3 Timelines (downloadable resources): one to provide a teacher with background information (also printed in the book); one that is simplified for children’s use, providing questions and their answers; and one that includes pictures and simple questions.
  • A Template (printed in the book and in digital format) to help structure the lesson.
  • An overview of opportunities for cross-curricular links.

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SOTSOG front cover

Free sample unit

Charles Macintosh

This is a sample unit based on the work of Charles Macintosh from Standing on the Shoulders of Giants.

It is free for you to download and try.

Book pages


Teacher resources


Enquiry symbols


Safety Notice & Disclaimer

PSTT advises teachers to refer to either the CLEAPSS website or SSERC website for up to date health and safety information when planning practical activities for children.

PSTT is not liable for the actions or activities of any reader or anyone else who uses the information in these resource pages or the associated classroom materials. PSTT assumes no liability with regard to injuries or damage to property that may occur as a result of using the information contained in these resources. PSTT recommends that a full risk assessment is carried out before undertaking in the classroom any of the practical investigations contained in the resources.

All materials are ©Primary Science Teaching Trust (PSTT) and are freely available to download and share for educational purposes. Whilst educators are free to adapt the resources to suit their own needs, acknowledgement of copyright on all original materials must be included. Rights to images included in the resource have been purchased for PSTT use only – as such, these images may only be used as part of this resource and may not copied into or used in other materials.