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Year 3 Science

Pupils in years 3 and 4 should be given a range of scientific experiences to enable them to raise their own questions about the world around them. 

They should start to make their own decisions about the most appropriate type of scientific enquiry they might use to answer questions; recognise when a simple fair test is necessary and help to decide how to set it up; talk about criteria for grouping, sorting and classifying; and use simple keys. 

They should begin to look for naturally occurring patterns and relationships and decide what data to collect to identify them. 

They should help to make decisions about what observations to make, how long to make them for and the type of simple equipment that might be used.

They should learn how to use new equipment, such as data loggers, appropriately. 

They should collect data from their own observations and measurements, using notes, simple tables and standard units, and help to make decisions about how to record and analyse this data. 

With help, pupils should look for changes, patterns, similarities and differences in their data in order to draw simple conclusions and answer questions. With support, they should identify new questions arising from the data, making predictions for new values within or beyond the data they have collected and finding ways of improving what they have already done. 

They should also recognise when and how secondary sources might help them to answer questions that cannot be answered through practical investigations. 

Pupils should use relevant scientific language to discuss their ideas and communicate their findings in ways that are appropriate for different audiences. These opportunities for working scientifically should be provided across years 3 and 4 so that the expectations in the programme of study can be met by the end of year 4. 

Pupils are not expected to cover each aspect for every area of study.


Pupils should be introduced to the relationship between structure and function: the idea
that every part has a job to do. They should explore questions that focus on the role of
the roots and stem in nutrition and support, leaves for nutrition and flowers for

Note: Pupils can be introduced to the idea that plants can make their own food, but at
this stage they do not need to understand how this happens.

Pupils might work scientifically by: comparing the effect of different factors on plant
growth, for example, the amount of light, the amount of fertiliser; discovering how seeds
are formed by observing the different stages of plant life cycles over a period of time;
looking for patterns in the structure of fruits that relate to how the seeds are dispersed.

They might observe how water is transported in plants, for example, by putting cut, white
carnations into coloured water and observing how water travels up the stem to the

Animals, including humans

Pupils should continue to learn about the importance of nutrition and should be
introduced to the main body parts associated with the skeleton and muscles, finding out
how different parts of the body have special functions.

Pupils might work scientifically by: identifying and grouping animals with and without
skeletons and observing and comparing their movement; exploring ideas about what
would happen if humans did not have skeletons. They might compare and contrast the
diets of different animals (including their pets) and decide ways of grouping them
according to what they eat. They might research different food groups and how they
keep us healthy and design meals based on what they find out.


Linked with work in geography, pupils should explore different kinds of rocks and soils,
including those in the local environment.

Pupils might work scientifically by: observing rocks, including those used in buildings
and gravestones, and exploring how and why they might have changed over time; using
a hand lens or microscope to help them to identify and classify rocks according to
whether they have grains or crystals, and whether they have fossils in them. 

Pupils might research and discuss the different kinds of living things whose fossils are found in sedimentary rock and explore how fossils are formed. 

Pupils could explore different soils and identify similarities and differences between them and investigate what happens when rocks are rubbed together or what changes occur when they are in water. 

They can raise and answer questions about the way soils are formed.


Pupils should explore what happens when light reflects off a mirror or other reflective
surfaces, including playing mirror games to help them to answer questions about how
light behaves. 
They should think about why it is important to protect their eyes from
bright lights. 

They should look for, and measure, shadows, and find out how they are
formed and what might cause the shadows to change.

Note: Pupils should be warned that it is not safe to look directly at the Sun, even when
wearing dark glasses.

Pupils might work scientifically by: looking for patterns in what happens to shadows
when the light source moves or the distance between the light source and the object

Forces and magnets

Pupils should observe that magnetic forces can act without direct contact, unlike most
forces, where direct contact is necessary (for example, opening a door, pushing a
They should explore the behaviour and everyday uses of different magnets (for
example, bar, ring, button and horseshoe).

Pupils might work scientifically by: comparing how different things move and grouping
them; raising questions and carrying out tests to find out how far things move on
different surfaces and gathering and recording data to find answers their questions;
exploring the strengths of different magnets and finding a fair way to compare them;
sorting materials into those that are magnetic and those that are not; looking for patterns
in the way that magnets behave in relation to each other and what might affect this, for
example, the strength of the magnet or which pole faces another; identifying how these
properties make magnets useful in everyday items and suggesting creative uses for
different magnets.

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