The National Curriculum sets out in some detail the programmes of study which are children's minimum entitlement in science. Systematic information about children's understanding of the science which is prescribed in the National Curriculum is a prime research target. Of particular interest is conceptual progression and effective strategies to promote teaching and learning.

The Primary SPACE (Science Processes and Concept Exploration) Project worked closely with teachers to find out about children's understanding. It examined the concept areas covered by the national curriculum. The Project, directed by Professor Wynne Harlen and Professor Paul Black, was based at the Centre for Research in Primary Science and Technology, University of Liverpool, and the Centre for Educational Studies, King's College London.


The research is constructivist in orientation. That is, it is based on the assumption that children actively construct their own understanding of how the world works. Their ideas are influenced both by their understanding of their own direct experiences and by their interpretation of socially transmitted ideas. These ideas recur with high frequency and may impede a shift towards conventional scientific understanding. Knowledge of children's starting points is invaluable to teachers and curriculum developers since it provides insight as to where teaching should begin.

The SPACE Project Research Reports were published between 1989 and 1998 to present the results of this exciting enquiry into the ideas which children form about scientific concepts and processes. Each report describes some aspects of the sequence and development of children's intermediate understandings in a particular science domain. They record, in fascinating detail, the classroom methods used by teachers to elicit children's ideas; summarize the main ideas which emerge between Reception and Year Six and also describe some of the techniques used to help children develop their ideas.

The most recent work of the SPACE project ( Force ) has been extended to examine teaching and learning across Key Stages 1, 2 and 3 (age 5-14 years).

The Primary SPACE Project research results were used as the foundation for Nuffield Primary Science, published by the Nuffield-Chelsea Curriculum Trust and Collins Educational.

SPACE Research Reports

* Electricity
* The Earth in Space
* Evaporation and Condensation
* Growth
* Processes of Life
* Light
* Materials
* Rocks Soil and Weather
* Sound
* Forces

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