Nature Of Science

Nature Of Science

The MacDiarmid Institute has created these resources to help teachers and students better understand the Nature of Science, the overarching, unifying strand of the New Zealand Science CurriculumThrough ‘Nature Of Science’ students learn what science is and how scientists work. They develop the skills, attitudes, and values to build a foundation for understanding the world. They come to appreciate that while scientific knowledge is durable, it is also constantly re-evaluated in the light of new evidence. They learn how scientists carry out investigations, and they come to see science as a socially valuable knowledge system. They learn how science ideas are communicated and to make links between scientific knowledge and everyday decisions and actions. These outcomes are pursued through the following major contexts in which scientific knowledge has developed and continues to develop.


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Understanding about science: Learn about science as a knowledge system: the features of scientific knowledge and the processes by which it is developed; and learn about the ways in which the work of scientists interacts with society.


Investigating in science: Carry out science investigations using a variety of approaches: classifying and identifying, pattern seeking, exploring, investigating models, fair testing, making things, or developing systems.


Communicating in science: Develop knowledge of the vocabulary, numeric and symbol systems, and conventions of science and use this knowledge to communicate about their own and others’ ideas.


Participating and contributing: Bring a scientific perspective to decisions and actions as appropriate.




The tentative nature of scientific knowledge – refers to the idea that although reliable and durable, scientific knowledge is neither static nor definitive.  Rather it is subject to change in the light of new evidence or interpretation of existing evidence.

The empirical nature of science – refers to the idea that science is based on or derived from observations of the world around us from which interpretations are made.  A scientific explanation must be consistent with empirical evidence.  However, science also involves abstractions, not merely the accumulation of observable facts alone.

Science requires imagination and creativity – to provide inferential statements about observed phenomena.  Observations describe what is seen while inferences are statements made about observed phenomena from conjecture.  This challenges the misconception that there is one universal way to do science, commonly referred to as ‘the scientific method’.

The theory and subjective-laden nature of science describes the way different scientists can interpret the same data sets differently.  It is not possible to make truly objective observations and interpretations without any bias from the observer.  Some say that observation is not the starting place for science because all observation is preceded by a theory.

Scientific knowledge is produced within a larger society and culture.  The knowledge produced is embedded within social and cultural elements such as politics, economy, power structures, religion and philosophy.