If your child is in Primary 3 this year, one big adjustment will be learning how to manage science as a new subject.
For parents who don’t have a science background, you might be wondering how to teach your child science at home. Here’s the first thing to remember: you’re not standing in for your child’s teacher! Instead, you should play a supportive role, where you check if your child understands concepts that have been taught in school, and is able to apply them. In fact, your more important job is to find ways to help your child enjoy science!
Of course, you may have heard negative stories about how science is taught in Singapore schools, such as this:
“All poisonous fruits are inedible — true or false?” My daughter answered ‘false’ as she had read about certain fruits being edible to specific species of birds and animals, but inedible to others in order to ensure optimal dispersion of their seeds. Wrong! ‘We are talking about generalities here,’ said the teacher.”
In your own journey with your child, you may encounter school situations that may frustrate you. Ultimately, learning for the long haul can be quite different from prepping for exams. You may find yourself in similar ‘confrontations’ with science teachers about how they allocate test or exam marks, but do save your energies for what matters most — ensuring that your child remains curious about the way the world works, and unafraid to investigate possibilities and even dream up new solutions to existing problems.
The Big Picture of Primary School Science
In Singapore schools, science is officially introduced as a subject in Primary 3. The primary school science curriculum is divided into two parts, known as “Lower Block” (Primary 3 to 4) and “Upper Block” (Primary 5 to 6).
For full details on the primary school science curriculum, please download the syllabus on the Ministry of Education website.
Within the syllabus document, you will find a glossary of terms that you should familiarise yourself with. These terms refer to the science skills that your child will be picking up in primary school, and some of these terms will frequently appear in science tests and exams:
- Classify: to group things based on common characteristics
- Compare: to identify similarities and differences between objects, concepts, or processes
- Construct: to put a set of components together, based on a given plan
- Describe: to state — in words, or using diagrams where appropriate — the main points of a topic
- Discuss: to reflect on and explore a topic (in speech or writing)
- Differentiate: to identify the differences between objects, concepts, or processes
- Identify: to select and/or name an object, event, concept, or process
- Infer: to draw a conclusion based on observations
- Investigate: to find out by carrying out experiments
- List: to give a number of points or items — without elaboration
- Manipulate: to control an object, in order to explore and discover its behaviour
- Measure: to obtain a reading from a suitable measuring instrument
- Observe: to obtain information through the use of the senses
- Recognise: to identify facts, characteristics, or concepts that are critical for understanding a situation, event, process, or phenomenon
- Relate: to identify and explain the relationships between objects, concepts, or processes
- Show an Understanding: to recall information (facts, concepts, models, data), translate information from one form to another, explain and apply information
- State: to give a concise answer with little or no supporting argument
- Trace: to follow a path
As for how you should approach the study of science at home with your child, you can look out for useful tips from homeschooling mothers such as @justtey, who is also a former secondary school science educator. Her tip is to identify a few “big ideas” for each science topic, which she says will serve as “pegs” to help kids to “hook” on new information.
Another piece of advice she has given: note that primary school science is generally divided into two sections: biology (involving living things) and physical science. Biology topics (about 70% of the syllabus) tend to be information-heavy, while physical science topics take up the remaining 30%. Yet, physical science topics feature prominently in Open-Ended Questions, or OEQs as they are commonly known.
You can read more in her posts on fitting science concepts together and understanding the main concepts for energy and light.
What is Covered in Primary 3 (Lower Block) Science?
Always refer to the materials that your child’s school has given you, as they may choose to cover Lower Block science topics in a slightly different order. But in general, here is what you can expect your child to be learning:
Diversity of Living & Non-Living things
- Classification: Living & Non-Living Things
- Fungi & Bacteria
Diversity of Materials
There is a great variety of living and non-living things around us.
We can classify living and non-living things based on their similarities and differences, in order to understand them.
Maintaining the diversity of living things ensures our/their continued survival.
Interactions of Forces
- Magnets & Their Characteristics
- Making Magnets
There are interactions between humans, and living and non-living things in the environment.
We can interact with the environment and make a positive or negative impact.
A system consists of different parts. Each part has its own unique function.
Different parts/systems interact to perform functions as well.
Some schools use the CER or Claim-Evidence-Reasoning model to teach science, and you can google this concept to get ideas for how to explore science at home. The Singapore Science Centre also has a useful Science At Home page, with links to resources that you can use, as well as experiment kits (aligned with the school syllabus) that you can purchase.
Below are some science videos that you and your child can watch together at home. On your own, look for other age-appropriate videos to spark interest, aid understanding, and fuel your child’s desire to learn more.
Although there will be year-end exams in Primary 3, we hope you won’t let this dampen your child’s enthusiasm for learning — this applies to all subjects, not just science!
You may be tempted to begin drilling your child in the ‘right’ way to answer exam questions for maximum marks. However, do bear in mind that rote learning is detrimental in the long run, and it could kill off your child’s love for science.
That’s why it’s more important to build interest and understanding, and leave space for your child to make mistakes, especially if you disagree with how questions are marked. This is the true spirit of learning science, and if we want to transform how our kids learn, the change begins with us parents, in our homes.