Senior Phase Natural Sciences

Science as we know it today has roots in African, Arabic, Asian, European and American cultures. It has been shaped by the search to understand the natural world through observation, testing and proving of ideas, and has evolved to become part of the cultural heritage of all nations. In all cultures and in all times people have wanted to understand how the physical world works and have needed explanations that satisfy them.

What is science?

science is a systematic way of looking for explanations and connecting the ideas we have. In Science certain methods of inquiry and investigation are generally used. These methods lend themselves to replication and a systematic approach to scientific inquiry that attempts at objectivity. The methods include formulating hypotheses, and designing and carrying out experiments to test the hypotheses. Repeated investigations are undertaken, and the methods and results are carefully examined and debated before they are accepted as valid.

The science knowledge we teach at school is not in doubt – most of it has been tested and known since the 1800s – but a good teacher will tell the learners something of the arguments and confusion among the people who were the first to investigate this knowledge.

Science also explores the frontiers of the unknown. There are many unanswered questions such as: Why is climate changing around the world? What is making the universe expand? What causes the earth’s magnetic field to change? As with all knowledge, scientific knowledge changes over time as scientists acquire new information and people change their ways of viewing the world.

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Indigenous Knowledge Systems

Our forebears would not have survived if they had not been able to learn about the natural world they depended on. They made careful observations, recognised regular patterns in seasons, the life cycles of plants, and the behaviour of animals.

They had theories about cause and effect too, and understood many of the relationships in the environment where they lived. These sets of knowledge, each woven into the history and place of people, are known as indigenous knowledge systems.

Indigenous knowledge includes knowledge about agriculture and food production, pastoral practices and animal production, forestry, plant classification, medicinal plants, management of biodiversity, food preservation, management of soil and water, iron smelting, brewing, making dwellings and understanding astronomy. As society changes, some of that knowledge is being lost. People such as biologists, pharmacists and archaeologists are seeking it out and writing it down before it is gone.

Teaching

Careful selection of content, and use of a variety of approaches to teaching and learning Science, should promote understanding of:

  • Science as a discipline that sustains enjoyment and curiosity about the world and natural phenomena
  • the history of Science and the relationship between Natural Sciences and other subjects
  • the different cultural contexts in which indigenous knowledge systems have developed
  • the contribution of Science to social justice and societal development
  • the need for using scientific knowledge responsibly in the interest of ourselves, of society and the environment
  • the practical and ethical consequences of decisions based on Science.

Natural Sciences at the Senior Phase level lays the basis of further studies in more specific Science disciplines, such as Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Earth Sciences or Agricultural Sciences. It prepares learners for active participation in a democratic society that values human rights and promotes responsibility towards the environment. Natural Sciences can also prepare learners for economic activity and self-expression.

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