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Another group of children crouched down in grass examining plants

Paradise Pastures: Work Scientifically to Investigate the Incredible Biodiversity Hidden in your School Grounds

This series of lessons uses the Eden Project’s Story-Inspired Learning approach to connect children with the biodiversity in their own school grounds and develop their understanding of the nature and process of scientific enquiry.

Overview of the lesson series

At Eden we use stories as starting points (hooks) and play on children’s natural curiosity to engage our learners. The human brain is hardwired for engaging with storytelling. The ‘Paradise Pastures’ lesson series demonstrate how we take this playful, narrative-led approach and apply this to scientific enquiry. This series of immersive sessions would be best delivered during the summer term. The sessions begin with a period of exploration where the children touch on a range of enquiry types, skills and areas of science knowledge and understanding, and have a range of science experiences outdoors. These experiences act to spark their curiosity.

Key to this lesson series is the idea that science enquiry is about much more than carrying out a ‘fair test’. There are actually 6 types of scientific enquiry: Observation over time, Researching, Identifying, Classifying and Grouping, Pattern Seeking, Problem Solving and Fair/Comparative testing. Once we come to realise and become practised in these different and equally valid ways of ‘finding out’, beyond trying to shoehorn everything into a ‘fair test’, then teachers and their children have more freedom to enjoy the nature of science.

To find out further information about the types of scientific enquiry and the enquiry skills we recommend visiting the Primary Science Teaching Trust website.

After these initial exploratory sessions, the students are encouraged to draw on their experiences and to develop their own scientific question: something which they themselves have become curious about. They are then supported to choose the most suitable enquiry type to investigate their question and complete an investigation before reporting back their findings.

The investigations take place within your school grounds in an area which will come to be known as ‘Paradise Pastures’. It’s likely that the children will already be familiar with the place, however, this series of lessons invites them to take another look at that place and explore it with a fresh focus.

Quote 1

Year 5 student

“Science is the figuring out of the unknown and learning from mistakes.”

Rationale Behind the Lesson Series

Research increasingly shows the importance of connection to nature in terms of developing pro environmental behaviours. The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review states that ‘Creating an environment from an early age where we are able to connect to nature is essential for self-enforcement in protecting and valuing nature’. Connection to Nature represents a golden thread running through all of our learning programmes at Eden and this lesson series provides a means to that end within your own school grounds.

At the Eden Project we see science as an active process, whereby curiosity is harnessed and children are encouraged to develop their own authentic questions about the world around them. This series of lessons aims to help guide children and their teachers on that journey through the process of scientific enquiry.

Carrying out scientific enquiries brings a whole host of benefits to the learner. The ASE (Association for Science Education) states that scientific enquiry increases children capacity to: problem-solve and answer questions, work with independence, ‘Be a scientist’ and communicate effectively. In addition, scientific enquiry develops and deepens conceptual understanding, nurtures thinking, reasoning, resilience, determination and confidence and develops a toolkit of practical skills which is added to over time. 

Quote 2

Year 5 student

“Before I thought science was just germs and antibodies and the body but now I think it’s also the living nature and the world itself.”

Why do this series of lessons with your class?

It’s tried and tested! We developed this project with a year 5 class in a Cornish school during summer 2021.

A group of children crouched on the floor examining the grass

In the feedback from the children showed several key trends:

  • The realisation that science is a ‘doing type of thing’ – it’s active and is about finding out how the world around you works.
  • Development of scientific skills and practical know how (use of equipment).
  • Excitement about the living things in their local environment (biodiversity) that they don’t normally notice and the connection between our actions and the environment.
  • They enjoyed taking a playful approach to science - blending a narrative with the scientific enquiry.
  • They simply enjoyed being outside, getting wet, getting muddy and looking at nature.

Further information

Lesson overview and downloadable resources