Nuffield Junior Science 1966

Organiser: Ron Wastnedge

In the early 1960s most primary teachers had little scientific knowledge. Little was known about how children develop conceptual understanding of science. Few teachers had received any training in the use of scientific processes: they did not know what was meant by a variable, and could not design experiments, evaluate evidence or draw valid conclusions. They did not know how to ask or recognise appropriate questions for the children.

All this the project set out to address in the 1960s context of a child-centred approach to primary education – a reaction to previous didactic teaching methods.

Weed count on the playing field

Project aims 

The first principle was that children should have the widest possible range of practical experiences rather than just learning facts at second hand. It was thought vital that children should handle materials as well as hear, smell and taste them where practicable.

The overall aim was to produce children who are keenly observant, questioning, able to devise means of getting answers to their questions, rigorous in their work, and able to communicate their findings and ideas. 

Estimating the height of a tree

Outcomes

The lack of structure in the project made it more useful and acceptable to teachers of infants (5 to 7 years of age), where child-centred approaches had already been widely adopted, than to teachers of juniors (7 to 11 years of age). It fell out of use when Science 5/13 (originally conceived as a ‘follow up’ project to Nuffield Junior Science) provided support for teachers in the form of progressive learning, specific activities within topics, and background science information. The legacy of Nuffield Junior Science lies not so much in the particular materials it produced or even the teaching approach, but the stimulus it provided to further developments.

Model insects

Resources

There were teachers' guides and background booklets. There were no pupil materials because these were thought to be too prescriptive. 

Also on the web

Download the resources from the STEM Centre website

Nuffield Junior Science

Entry in the King's College London archive

Nuffield Junior Science papers