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Why consider topical science? Additional support - topical science at early level Sources of information Topical science support for all levels Links to the world of work and careers Classroom activities Podcasting to support topical science Case studies Why consider topical science?

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Why consider topical science?

Additional support - topical science at early level

Sources of information

Topical science support for all levels

Links to the world of work and careers

Classroom activities

Podcasting to support topical science

Case studies


Why consider topical science?

‘By considering current issues of science, learners increasingly develop their understanding of scientific concepts and their capacity to form informed social, moral and ethical views. They reflect upon and critically evaluate media portrayal of scientific findings.’

Curriculum for Excellence - sciences experiences and outcomes


Topical science experiences and outcomes

The table below shows Topical Science in the Curriculum for Excellence sciences experiences and outcomes. Although it is shown as a line of development, opportunities should be provided for the inclusion of topical science in all aspects of learning within the sciences.

By considering the language used at each level we can ensure progression, development of the four capacities and skills development, including the development of literacy skills.


The words highlighted in this experience and outcome provide information about the skills that will be developed by the learner.

Many of the skills are literacy skills.

I have contributed to discussions of current scientific news items to help develop my awareness of science.

SCN 1-20a


Contributing to the development of literacy skills.

Literacy is a medium through which children and young people access most information and learning. The possible approaches used in the delivery of topical science are literacy- rich and especially strong in the areas of listening and talking and reading.

Listening and talking for learning

Children and young people will engage with others in group and class discussions of topical science issues in a challenging way, at a level commensurate with their level of competence. They will learn collaboratively, explain their thinking to others and explore factors which influence and persuade them in order to think about the reliability of information.

Reading for learning

Finding, selecting, sorting, summarising and linking information from a variety of sources will be a feature of the learning experience. Understanding the differences between fact and opinion will be an important literacy skill that can be developed.


Progression in skills development will take place from early through to fourth level.

This is shown by the comparison of experiences and outcomes from two different levels.



Sources of information

  • Information on topical science can be gathered from a number of sources including:
  • Newspapers
  • Online newspapers, eg Scotsman, Herald, Guardian, Times online etc
  • Children's magazines, eg National Geographical Kids, CBBC magazines
  • BBC websites / BBC News round
  • Science museum website
  • Scientific press and journals (New Scientist, Scientific American etc)
  • Twitter – by following NASA, New Scientist etc you can receive updates, news articles and web links as events happen
  • RSS feeds from websites and from Glow national science page.

Using newspapers in science

  • In order to engage with science news stories in a meaningful way, learners need to develop a basic understanding of the structure of newspapers and features of articles: headline, introductory paragraphs and their function, use of quotes, captions etc.
  • Developing scientific literacy and critical thinking requires the teaching of further higher order skills. Learners need to be taught to reflect on issues such as:
  • Authority – Who are the authors? Are they credible? Was this written by a science correspondent?
  • Objectivity – Is there any bias?
  • Sensationalism – Does the language used involve emotive language?
  • Accuracy – Who carried out the studies? Have the results been replicated?
  • Statistics – Are the figures misleading?

“By encouraging young people to engage with science-related stories in the media, and equipping them to engage reflectively and critically with such stories, we are contributing to their empowerment as citizens in our increasing information rich society.”

Jarman and McClune, Science Newswise, (2005)


How newspapers can be used in science

  • There are many different ways that newspapers can be used to support learning in the sciences. Below is a list of some of the ways that teachers can help young people engage with science in the media:
  • Making topical science connections to a particular programme of study
  • Communicating current research
  • Promoting interest/wonder in science
  • Responding to a story
  • Identifying/understanding evidence
  • Critical analysis of research
  • As a stimulus to further enquiry/research
  • Looking at ethical issues
  • Issues of presentation by the media, eg simplifying complex research for an audience.
  • Jarman and McClune, Science Newswise, 2005, Queen’s University, Belfast

Interdisciplinary learning using newspapers

  • Using articles of scientific news also provide rich opportunities for interdisciplinary working between subjects and departments. Some examples are given below:
  • Developing literacy skills
  • Analysing the features/types of language used in articles
  • Promoting active reading
  • Identifying viewpoints/bias
  • Use of images.
  • Developing numeracy skills
  • Analysing data from charts
  • Understanding statistics and how these can be misleading.
  • Social studies/technologies/expressive arts
  • Identifying ways that sciences and technologies impact on people
  • Looking at the historical role of scientists and their impacts on society
  • Considering innovation and creativity in the design of publications.



Suggestions for classroom activities are indicated in the experiences and outcomes.

Through research and discussion I have an appreciation of the contribution that individuals are making to scientific discovery and invention and the impact this has made on society.

SCN 2-20a


You choose the news

‘You choose the news’ is an interactive game developed by Dr Eleanor Gilroy at the Scottish Crop Research Institute. It allows players to create a TV news item about the impending EU chemical pesticide ban and the potential effects and solutions to this proposal. By selecting from a series of short video clips players can produce their own news item and when completed the game will tell players just how biased, or not, their news clip is.

As well as considering an area of topical science, this resource can be used to develop literacy skills and provides a topic for debate in science.


Climate Change – Choosing our tomorrows

This resource, produced by the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, comprises of three sets of video diaries recorded by members of the same farming family living in East Lothian in 2050. It can be used as a focus for debate and discussion on an area of topical science.

Each set of diaries describes their lives in different futures depending on how we have responded to the challenges of climate change.

The purpose of the diaries is to highlight how the choices that we make today will affect how we live in the future. It can also be used to stimulate discussion on the skills required for jobs of the future and the important role of entrepreneurial activities.


case studies
Case Studies
  • Pam Ferguson, a teacher at Dollar Academy, has explored learning in the area of topical science.
  • Listen as Pam discusses the following themes relevant to topical science.
  • Why do topical science?
  • Examples of classroom activities
  • Approaches
  • Download this document to see a list of resources used by Pam
  • Useful resources

The science department at Webster’s High School in Kirriemuir, Angus uses science notice boards to add relevance and to link topics to real-life issues.

Click on the link below to find out more.



What is a podcast?

How to listen to podcasts

Other useful resources



The University of Strathclyde

SSci pod project

How to make a podcast

Science podcasts on the internet




Podcasting is a powerful way of allowing children to share their work and experiences with a potentially huge audience over the internet. Schools are increasingly using the internet to promote what they do and to celebrate the achievements of their children. Podcasting is an excellent way of exploring topical science issues. It also contributes to the development of literacy skills.

What is a podcast?

A podcast is like a radio show. However, instead of being broadcast live, a podcast is recorded and then distributed over the internet, so that you can listen to it whenever you please. There are thousands of podcasts available, ranging from general interest entertainment shows to those which focus on specific topics (eg science / computers / music / education).



How to listen to podcasts

You can usually listen to podcasts directly on the websites of those people who make them (see science podcasts on the internet section for examples). However, you can also "subscribe" to podcasts using software like iPodder and iTunes. These programs will automatically download the latest shows, and you can then listen to them on your computer and download them onto an mp3 player. To subscribe to a podcast, you need to know the RSS feed (this information should be on the podcaster's website). iTunes has its own directory, where you can subscribe to a show, simply by clicking the "Subscribe" button.


The link below is to an interactive introduction to podcasting from the BBC along with some FAQ’s.


how to make a podcast

The link below gives a step by step by step guide to producing podcasts. Although it is a resource developed for Modern Language teachers, it can be used in any curricular area.

How to make a podcast


Click on the image above to access the LTS podcasting resources.

science podcasts on the internet

Science podcasts on the internet

The Education Podcast Network

Click on the thumbnails below to access a few of the science podcasts available on the internet. They can be used by staff to keep up to date with developments in the sciences or by children during research activities.

Podcasts for educators, schools and colleges


the university of strathclyde sscipod project


The University of Strathclyde SSciPod project

IntroductionThe project has been running with student teachers for the last 3 years. Students work collaboratively to plan, research and produce podcasts on topical science aimed at an S1/2 pupil audience.

Aims The project aim was to develop literacy approaches in promoting learning and teaching in the sciences.

Process The students were given the task of producing a 3 minute podcast which focused them on communicating essential information. The podcasts were submitted online and there was a time period of 48 hours where students could listen to each others podcasts and enter into an online dialogue.

Outcomes The project has developed the literacy skills of the students specifically in talking, listening, reading and writing. It has developed the students confidence in using literacy approaches in science and provided them with an insight in how ICT can be used to enrich the learning environment.

Click on the image above to access the podcasts produced by the teaching students at the University of Strathclyde


Other useful resources

David Noble, a Chartered Teacher who teaches in Fife, explains how he has used audio files and podcasting with children.

This education podcast database has been constructed and is maintained by David Noble.

The NASA DIY podcast resource below allows children to use audio, video and images to make their own podcasts. This could be used as an introduction to editing and producing a podcast


links to the world of work and careers
Links to the world of work and careers

Potential benefits

Use of Glow

Community involvement

Links to the world of work and careers

Web resources

STEM Scotland




Potential benefits

Partnership working with higher education, colleges, businesses and learned institutions can give learners insights into the world of work.

Their understanding of the opportunities available to them in the future can be broadened.

Links also provide many powerful and motivating opportunities that help to contextualise learning and give it relevance and meaning.

“Partnerships may include those with small companies, social enterprises and entrepreneurs, providing a strong link between the school and the local community, as well as larger national or international organisations. Through such partnerships, pre-school establishments, schools and colleges can benefit from additional expertise and information about the work and social environment, enabling effective, relevant and contextualised approaches to learning and teaching.”

Building the Curriculum 4, skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work



Use of Glow

Glow, the national intranet for Scotland, has the potential to enhance partnership working and give insights into the world of work.

Glow Meet is the web conferencing tool which allows people to interact using video, audio and a shared whiteboard space. An example of this being used to enhance partnership working and provide learners access to world of work, was the fulmar dissection which took place at the Seabird Centre in North Berwick. Wider participation in conferences has also been enabled through Glow, for example, the Think Darwin, Think Evolution, Think Now conference.

Glow can also be used to access resources and projects relating to career education and the world of work. An example of this is the Royal Observatory of Edinburgh project in which they worked with children and young people in schools, finding galaxies and exo-planets using real data collected by astronomers.

Seabird post mortem with Glow Meet



STEM Scotland

STEM Scotland provides information about relevant resources, organisations and activities for children, young people and their teachers. The organisation encourages interest and engagement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).


STEM Ambassadors

STEM Scotland also manages the STEM Ambassador programme.

STEM Ambassadors come from a wide range of industry and educational establishments across the STEM disciplines. They seek to inspire young people to become the scientists of the future and bring experience of their area of expertise within the world of work.

Teachers can also use the experience to gain up to date information on new developments in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.




Conferences can provide children, young people and their teachers the chance to speak to scientists/employers who are working in a particular field, find out about current research, get insights into their work and learn about the career paths they have followed to get to where they are. It can also provide an insight into the diverse world of work of the many members of staff supporting the scientists.

Information about conferences that will be taking place in the near future can be found on Glow.


web resources for insights into careers
Web resources for insights into careers

The ‘Do something different, do science’ campaign funded by Scottish Government gives examples of a wide range of career opportunities in science.

Teacher TV has videos in which researchers or businesses give insights into their work/research.

Talks by people from a range of careers including scientists and engineers.

Planet science has a large database of profiles of scientists.



Community involvement

Links with the local community can provide learners with insights into the world of work and assist in the delivery of aspects of topical science in an enterprising way.

Inviting parents/carers in to school to talk about their careers can be a useful source of information. It also provides an opportunity for parents/carers to become involved in the learning process.

Partnership working with local employers and businesses can be another useful link with the community as illustrated by the case study opposite.

Click on the link above to read about a nursery class who were inspired by a science story to work in partnership with a farm to hatch eggs and look after chicks.



What are science stories?

Ways to involve the learner

Different media to communicate ideas

Topical science at early level through science stories

Useful sources

Examples of science stories



What are science stories?

At early level, science stories can be used to introduce topical science.

Skills that can be developed are highlighted in the experience and outcome for SCN 0-20a.

I can talk about science stories to develop my understanding of science and the world around me.

SCN 0-20a


Science stories can be real or imagined. They can help children relate to the world around them, stimulating interest and questions which can be used as the starting point for discussion and investigation.

As well as appropriate items of science news from the wider world, things that happen in the children’s lives and the learning establishments can provide the basis for stories.

Fictional stories that involve science that children can wonder about are a further way to stimulate learner involvement in a science topic.



Ways to involve the learner

A story that involves science should stimulate children to discuss, ask questions and explore. This can be done in a variety of ways.

One teacher in a primary 1/2 class stimulated the children’s interest, questions and ideas at the beginning of their Schoolyard Safari topic using a clip from a cartoon.

“We started off watching A Bug Life and then had a discussion about how cartoons  have some facts in them and some things that aren't true.  Then in fours they discussed some statements to think about whether they were true or false.  As part of a class discussion we decided what else we thought we knew and added them on cards to the true side.  This then created lots of questions and ideas for when we began our mini beast safari.”


By stimulating questions and discussion through a story, the learners were involved in planning and had a real reason for investigating.

After closely observing living creatures in their natural habitats the children were then able to go back and see where they had got things right, which ideas needed refinement and which needed further research.

Children’s learning was given depth by the creation a safari learning area which added further challenge.



Examples of science stories

  • Stories that end with an unresolved discussion or in which different characters have different ideas e.g. spellbound science.
  • Something that happens in an outdoor area e.g. puddles freezing.
  • A story book that stimulates discussion and exploration e.g. The Global Garden.
  • An interesting news story such as the anniversary of the moon landings, inventions or examples of enterprising activities.
  • A story that relates to more than one curricular area e.g. catching the cold.



Useful sources

  • Ideas for science stories can come from a number of sources including:
  • Imaginary contexts
  • Seasons/festivals
  • Outdoor learning
  • Story books
  • Created sets
  • Discovery corner
  • Related to the world around
  • Something personal
  • Item of news
  • Innovations and inventions
  • All should provide a stimulus to children’s ideas, questions, discussion and active exploration and investigation.



Different media to communicate ideas

  • As learners discover more during their investigations, different media can be used to help them explore and communicate their ideas.
  • Learning corners/interest tables/displays
  • Digital cameras
  • Digital microscopes
  • Data loggers
  • Voice recorders
  • Their thoughts and ideas can be scribed
  • Class science books.