Introduction to Science

Science and scientific literacy play a key role in educating citizens of today for the world of tomorrow. Critical to succeeding in this endeavour are the core competencies that provide students with the ability to think critically, solve problems, and make ethical decisions; to communicate their questions, express opinions, and challenge ideas in a scientifically literate way; and to exercise an awareness of their role as ecologically literate citizens, engaged
and competent in meeting the responsibilities of caring for living things and the planet.

Features of the Science curriculum

  • With a focus on inquiry and conceptual learning, the Science curriculum provides students with opportunities to ask questions, consider a range of views, recognize their beliefs and opinions, work collaboratively, and ultimately make informed conclusions that lead to personally and socially responsible choices.
  • The story of science in the curriculum takes the students from observing their immediate environment to engaging in actions and decision making on a global scale as scientifically educated citizens.
  • First Peoples knowledge and perspectives and other traditional ecological knowledge are embedded throughout the Science curriculum.

Flexible teaching and learning

The Science curriculum allows for instructional flexibility. For example, the curriculum components can be combined in different ways to provide a diverse range of learning opportunities. Within each grade, there are multiple ways to combine Big Ideas, Curricular Competencies, and Content to create lessons, units, and learning experiences. The curriculum encourages the use of a range of approaches that support instruction and acquisition.

Design of the Science curriculum

The Science curriculum has the same format as all other areas of learning. The curriculum elements – the Big Ideas, Curricular Competencies, Content, and elaborations – link the knowing, doing, and understanding of science. By connecting scientific knowledge with a hands-on approach to doing science, the curriculum elements support learning in biology, chemistry, physics, and earth, space, and environmental sciences, leading to a deep understanding of science concepts. More information on the curriculum model is available at

Big Ideas

The Big Ideas in the Science curriculum tell the story of science through principles and key concepts, emphasizing the “understanding” of science. For each area of science – biology, chemistry, physics, and earth, space, and environmental sciences – important concepts are introduced in Kindergarten and expanded in subsequent grades, resulting in a deep understanding of the story of science. In chemistry, for example, the progression of the Big Ideas is designed to provide students with a deep understanding of matter, beginning with human interactions with matter through familiar materials and building to the behaviour of matter at the molecular level.



Humans interact with matter every day through familiar materials.


All matter is made of particles.


Everyday materials are often mixtures.


The behaviour of matter can be explained by the kinetic molecular theory and atomic theory.


Energy change is required as atoms rearrange in chemical processes.


Reactants must collide to react, and the reaction rate is dependent on the surrounding conditions.

Curricular Competencies

The Curricular Competencies introduced in Kindergarten are expanded in a developmental continuum through Grade 12, emphasizing the “doing” of science. The Science Curricular Competencies develop student explorations in the scientific method and other scientific protocols, using the following six organizers:

  • Questioning and predicting
  • Planning and conducting
  • Processing and analyzing data and information
  • Evaluating
  • Applying and innovation
  • Communicating

The Core Competencies – Thinking, Communication, and Personal and Social – are embedded in the Curricular Competencies as illustrated in the condensed table below. (The complete list of Curricular Competencies can be found at







Demonstrate curiosity and a sense of wonder about the world

Demonstrate curiosity about the natural world

Demonstrate a sustained curiosity about a scientific topic or problem of personal interest

Demonstrate a sustained intellectual curiosity about a scientific topic or problem of personal, local or global interest


Share observations and ideas orally

Represent and communicate ideas and findings in a variety of ways, such as diagrams and simple reports, using digital technologies as appropriate

Communicate ideas, findings, and solutions to problems, using scientific language, representations, and digital technologies as appropriate

Communicate scientific ideas and information, and perhaps a suggested course of action, for a specific purpose and audience, constructing evidence-based arguments and using appropriate scientific language, conventions, and representations

and Social

Take part in caring for self, family, classroom, and school through personal approaches

Contribute to care for self, others, school, and neighbourhood through individual or collaborative approaches

Contribute to care for self, others, community, and world through personal or collaborative approaches

Contribute to care for self, others, community, and world through individual or collaborative approaches


The Content is conceptual in design, aligned with the Big Ideas, and outlines what students should know, emphasizing the “knowing” of science. The Content learning standards identify the specific concepts in biology, chemistry, physics, and earth, space, and environmental sciences that students will explore in each grade.


Elaborations have been provided (as hyperlinks) in many places throughout the curriculum.

For the Big Ideas, elaborations are intended to support scientific inquiry by providing sample questions. The questions offer possible entry points through which students can begin to investigate concepts related to each Big Idea.

Elaborations for the Curricular Competencies in K-9 are explanations of cross-cutting concepts relevant in science. The intent is for these concepts to be applied across other learning areas. For example, cause and effect is featured in Grade 3 when exploring biodiversity, matter, energy, and landforms. As a cross-cutting concept, this could be extended into cause-and-effect relationships in, for example, Mathematics, English Language Arts, and Social Studies.

Cross-cutting concepts introduced in the Science curriculum include:

Grade Cross-cutting Concept Grade Cross-cutting Concept






Form and function








Cause and effect


Matter and energy





Elaborations for the Curricular Competencies from Grades 10-12 are intended to support scientific inquiry and development of a deeper understanding of concepts. They offer suggested entry points by providing a variety of concept-based examples and sample inquiry questions.

The Content elaborations provide additional information that teachers may find useful in clarifying the learning standards.

Important considerations

Inquiry in Science

The Science curriculum is rooted in inquiry. Inquiry is the tool with which students gain scientific knowledge, learn the habits of mind associated with the doing of science, develop a deeper understanding of science concepts through Big Ideas, and acquire Core Competencies as scientifically educated citizens. Curricular Competencies are structured within an inquiry process model focused on “doing” and include numerous elaborations providing sample questions for students to explore.

First Peoples knowledge and perspectives

The Science curriculum is designed to acknowledge, recognize, and respect the First Peoples Principles of Learning. It is important for teachers to use these principles to guide the integration of First Peoples knowledge and perspectives into the Science curriculum in meaningful ways.
As well, the Science curriculum aims to address the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, particularly the call to “integrate Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms” (clause 62) and “build student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy and mutual respect” (clause 63).

Working with the First Peoples communities

To address First Peoples content and perspectives in the classroom in a way that is accurate and that respectfully reflects First Peoples concepts of teaching and learning, teachers are strongly encouraged to seek the advice and support of members of local First Peoples communities. As First Peoples communities are diverse in terms of language, culture, and available resources, each community will have its own unique protocol to gain support for integration of local knowledge and expertise. Permission for the use or translation of cultural materials or practices should be obtained through consultation with individuals, families, and other community members. This authorization should be obtained prior to the use of any educational plans or materials.

To begin discussion about possible instructional and assessment activities, teachers should first contact First Peoples education coordinators, teachers, support workers, and counsellors in their district who will be able to facilitate the identification of local resources and contacts, such as Elders, chiefs, First Nations tribal or band councils, First Peoples cultural centres, First Peoples friendship centres, and Métis or Inuit organizations.

In addition, teachers may wish to consult the various Ministry of Education publications available, including the “Planning Your Program” section of the resource Shared Learnings. This resource was developed to help all teachers provide students with knowledge of, and opportunities to share experiences with, First Peoples in B.C. For more information about these documents, consult the Aboriginal Education website:

Additional resources for teaching science in a First Peoples context are available through the First Nations Education Steering Committee and the First Nations Schools Association. The Science First Peoples Teacher Resource Guide, Grades 5 to 9, for example, is available at

Scientific habits of mind

Scientists and students alike use scientific habits of mind as they delve into the system of inquiry that we know as science. Scientific habits of mind are important for equipping students with the thinking skills necessary for engaging in the pursuit of discovery and innovation, as well as for understanding science. In addition, when students approach learning with scientific habits of mind, science learning is exciting and includes a knowledge base that is constantly refined and expanded and that is relevant to the modern world. Developing scientific habits of mind provides students with the thinking skills needed to effectively participate in society as scientifically educated citizens and invites them to explore further studies in science.

Scientific habits of mind include:

  • a sustained intellectual curiosity – the desire to continually learn more about something of interest
  • an openness to new ideas and consideration of alternatives – an attitude of wonder and interest in new concepts, coupled with a willingness to rethink notions and form new opinions based on evidence
  • an appreciation of evidence – an understanding of what proves or disproves a scientific theory
  • an awareness of assumptions and a questioning of givens – mindful questioning about something accepted as true without evidence
  • a healthy, informed skepticism – challenging the truth of a claim by requiring additional scientific evidence
  • a desire to seek patterns, connections, and understanding – the ability to make connections in information and interpret meaning from the patterns
  • a consideration of social, ethical, and environmental implications – a willingness to think about personal, societal, moral, and environmental impacts of actions

The environment and science learning

Educated citizens understand the importance of learning about the environment. Environmental education is part of the Personal and Social Core Competency, because it is a responsibility that connects with every area of learning. While the Science curriculum enables a variety of instructional approaches, it was designed with a place-based approach in mind. A place-based approach is an evolving, cross-curricular instructional approach that emphasizes the value of learning directly from students’ own community or region.

Place-based learning:

  • emphasizes hands-on, real-world learning experiences
  • helps students develop ties to their community
  • enhances students’ appreciation for the natural world
  • develops an active, engaged, educated citizenry

As students experience and interpret their local environment, they develop a sense of place. Place is any environment, locality, or context with which people interact to learn, create memory, reflect on history, connect with culture, and establish identity. The connection between people and place is foundational to First Peoples perspectives of the world.

Scientifically educated citizens are place-conscious, see themselves as part of the planet rather than ruler of the planet, stay informed about scientific developments, and are aware of the impact of science on the planet and its subsystems. The Science curriculum features reflection questions about place, to develop environmental awareness and a deep understanding of ecological concepts.

Considerations for classroom action

The Science curriculum includes several considerations for classroom action:

  • The concept-based, competency-driven curriculum enables a variety of approaches (e.g., place-based, inquiry-based, interdisciplinary, STEM, STEAM) for teachers to use to support student learning.
  • The curriculum places significant value on place-based perspectives in British Columbia, acknowledging the diversity of localities in the province and inviting students to experience their local environment.
  • The curriculum is inclusive of modern and traditional First Peoples knowledge and perspectives and other traditional ecological knowledge.
  • While inquiry is at the heart of science learning, inquiry-based learning is not necessarily always an efficient way to learn certain important things in science (e.g., terminology, safety procedures, how to use equipment). However, an inquiry might create the need and motivation to learn these skills and concepts.
  • In supporting hands-on science experiences, student safety remains a key consideration. Refer to the Science Safety Manual for further support in this area.

“Emphasizing hands-on, real-world learning experiences, this approach to education increases academic achievement, helps students develop stronger ties to their community, enhances students’ appreciation for the natural world, and creates a heightened commitment to serving as active contributing citizens. Community vitality and environmental quality are improved through the active engagement of local citizens, community organizations, and environmental resources in the life of the school.” (David Sobel, 2004, Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms and Communities, p. 7)