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See the science


This project, led by a team from Bath Spa University working with six local primary schools, aimed to strengthen science within thematic approaches to the curriculum, with a focus on science in the Early Years (3-7). There were two strands to the innovative approach adopted – ‘seeing the science’ in planning and ‘seeing the science’ in sustained dialogues with children. By exploring these issues with teachers, case studies were produced to provoke further discussion about how to manage the delicate balance between a rigorous approach to progression in science and providing meaningful, engaging contexts for learning.


  • (For the project children) to strengthen the science element of their curriculum as experienced both indoors and outdoors.
  • (For the project teachers and practitioners) to develop a greater understanding of the value of science within the curriculum and be explicit about science specific elements within thematic planning and to develop skills in holding sustained dialogues with a scientific element.
  • (For the school science leaders/coordinators) to develop strategies for working with colleagues to strengthen science within a thematic curriculum.
  • (For the wider profession) to develop greater understanding of teaching science within a thematic curriculum for the early years and primary years.
  • (For university tutors/CPD providers) to develop greater understanding of how to support teachers in 'seeing the science' within a thematic curriculum and a range of materials and strategies that can be made available to others.


Project Lead: Kendra McMahon, Centre for Research in Early Science Learning, Bath Spa University

The project involved three pairs of primary schools in rural and urban locations. Within each school there was a teacher in Key Stage 1 and the science subject leader (some of whom were also in Key Stage 1). Teachers were co-researchers in the project. The programme for professional development and generation of case studies involved workshops/discussions on identifying science in thematic contexts, the ‘big ideas’ of science, the nature of scientific and dialogic talk.

Activities provoked teachers to ‘see the science’ in range of contexts for learning. Teachers shared existing long and medium term planning and explained the place of science in that planning. Different ways of categorising and analysing talk in science lessons were introduced. Teachers recorded and analysed classroom dialogues as well as engaging in reflective dialogues with tutors on talk and planning. Tutor visits were made to all schools; clip-on microphones were used with groups of children and teacher to capture their talk.

Tutors selected parts of the audio recordings for transcription and examples of planning were discussed and collected when possible. In order to minimize the supply cover budget, as well as off-site training days, there were some twilight meetings between teachers and tutors in pairs of schools to reflect on transcripts as they were produced and share ideas about planning. Teachers also produced summative narratives of their development during the project.

Relevant Links

CRESL See the Science Project


The project was successful in improving the project teachers’ confidence teaching primary science. Transcripts of teacher-child talk showed improved use of sustained dialogues in scientific contexts and evidence of children’s engagement with science. There was some impact on teachers’ short and medium term planning in showing more clearly the science learning defined in terms of attitudes, science enquiry skills and understanding of processes and concepts and how these contribute to the topic as a whole. Ideas for CPD activities were generated to support the aims of the project and suggest ways to ‘see the science’ within curriculum topics and themes.



Bath Spa 2012 conference poster [20.90MB]



Bath Spa See the Science conference poster 2013 [287.15kB]



Find out more about this project by completing the form below and a member of the Primary Science Teaching Trust team will get back to you.


As I develop as a practitioner, I find my world gets bigger. I see connections between everything that I do. I don’t feel I have to force things into my week, or onto a plan … I was trying to make a big thing too small … I was funnelling the science into too formal a session and lost the talk …There is a place for formalised science learning, but I find that seeing the science in everything we do, and taking every advantage of that will promote more scientific learning and conversation in the EYFS.

Reception teacher taking part in the project



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