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Unit Overview

In recent years, it has been noted that children are becoming increasingly disconnected with the natural
environment (Francis, Paige & Lloyd, 2013; Johnston; 2009); resulting in a diminished awareness of living
things and their ecological importance in our local environments (Francis, Paige & Lloyd, 2013; Hachey &
Butler, 2012). Yet instances where students have physically interacted with animals and other living
things, show that the learning experience is heightened; skills in observational techniques and other
scientific processes increase; and their attitudes towards the natural environment is positively affected
(Francis, Paige & Lloyd, 2013; Hachey & Butler, 2012; Johnston, 2009).
Furthermore, the NSW Board of Studies (2012) states that stage 2, year 4 students, continue to
complete guided investigations, and are beginning to recognise ways of improving their inquiry
techniques by actively engaging with natural resources, as well as formal scientific and technology based
equipment. Therefore, firsthand learning experiences where students explore, touch and interact with
living things in their environment should be regularly utilised when teaching life sciences (Australian
Academy of Science, 2014; Charlesworth & Lind; 2013).
This unit, Cycles of Life: Exploring Plants and Animals, intends to awaken students curiosity and
awareness of living things, and explore the pivotal connections between insects and plant survival, by
exposing them to hands on investigations in their local environment (Australian Educational Services,
2015). To begin with, students will develop their understanding of living and non-living things by
investigating the properties of seeds. In the process, the students will become aware of the interactions
between other organisms (ants) and environmental changes which support ongoing ecological life cycles
(Australian Academy of Science, 2014; Charlesworth & Lind, 2013). Fieldwork and experiments will be
utilised to refine students observational skills and develop expert use of other scientific processes
(Johnston, 2009); in doing so, supporting students in experimenting with the develop and implement
their other investigations. Finally, it is hoped that this unit will empower students to participate in their
local environment and show consideration for diverse perspectives when planning and designing how
they will engage with it (Francis, Paige & Lloyd, 2013).

Australian Academy of Science. (2014). Primary connections: Friends or foes? Year 4 biological sciences.
Retrieved from:
Australian Educational Services. (2015). Friend or foe? Retrieved from: Stephanie Alexanders Kitchen
Garden Foundation website:
Charlesworth, R., & Lind, K., K. (2013). Math and science for young children (7th ed). Belmont, CA:
Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Francis, M., Paige, K., & Lloyd, D. (2013). Middle years students experiences in nature: A case study on
nature play. Teaching Science, 59(2) pp 20-30. Retrieved from:
Hachey, A., C. & Butler, D. (2012). Creatures in the classroom: Including insects and small animals in your
pre-school gardening curriculum. YC Young Children, 67(2) pp 38-42. Retrieved from:
Johnston, J. (2009): What does the skill of observation look like in young children?, International
Journal of Science Education, 31(18) pp 2511-2525. doi: 10.1080/09500690802644637
NSW Board of Studies. (2012). NSW syllabuses for the Australian curriculum. Science K-10 (Incorporating
science and technology K-6). Retrieved from: