Science provides an empirical way of answering interesting and important questions about the biological, physical and technological world. The knowledge it produces has proved to be a reliable basis for action in our personal, social and economic lives. Science is a dynamic, collaborative and creative human endeavour arising from our desire to make sense of our world through exploring the unknown, investigating universal mysteries, making predictions and solving problems. Science aims to understand a large number of observations in terms of a much smaller number of broad principles. Science knowledge is contestable and is revised, refined and extended as new evidence arises.


The Australian Curriculum: Science provides opportunities for students to develop an understanding of important science concepts and processes, the practices used to develop scientific knowledge, of science’s contribution to our culture and society, and its applications in our lives. The curriculum supports students to develop the scientific knowledge, understandings and skills to make informed decisions about local, national and global issues and to participate, if they so wish, in science-related careers.


In addition to its practical applications, learning science is a valuable pursuit in its own right. Students can experience the joy of scientific discovery and nurture their natural curiosity about the world around them. In doing this, they develop critical and creative thinking skills and challenge themselves to identify questions and draw evidence-based conclusions using scientific methods. The wider benefits of this ‘scientific literacy’ are well established, including giving students the capability to investigate the natural world and changes made to it through human activity.


The ability to think and act in scientific ways helps build the broader suite of capabilities in students as confident, self-motivated and active members of our society.


In Foundation, students observe and describe the behaviours and properties of everyday objects, materials and living things. They explore change in the world around them, including changes that impact on them, such as the weather, and changes they can effect, such as making things move or change shape. They learn that seeking answers to questions they pose and making observations is a core part of science and use their senses to gather different types of information.

Year 1

In Year 1, students infer simple cause-and-effect relationships from their observations and experiences, and begin to link events and phenomena with observable effects and to ask questions. They observe changes that can be large or small and happen quickly or slowly. They explore the properties of familiar objects and phenomena, identifying similarities and differences. Students begin to value counting as a means of comparing observations, and are introduced to ways of organising their observations.

Year 2

In Year 2, students describe the components of simple systems, such as stationary objects subjected to pushes or pulls, or combinations of materials, and show how objects and materials interact through direct manipulation. They observe patterns of growth and change in living things, and describe patterns and make predictions. They explore the use of resources from Earth and are introduced to the idea of the flow of matter when considering how water is used. They use counting and informal measurements to make and compare observations and begin to recognise that organising these observations in tables makes it easier to show patterns.

Year 3

In Year 3, students observe heat and its effects on solids and liquids and begin to develop an understanding of energy flows through simple systems. In observing day and night, they develop an appreciation of regular and predictable cycles. Students order their observations by grouping and classifying; in classifying things as living or non-living they begin to recognise that classifications are not always easy to define or apply. They begin to quantify their observations to enable comparison, and learn more sophisticated ways of identifying and representing relationships, including the use of tables and graphs to identify trends. They use their understanding of relationships between components of simple systems to make predictions.

Year 4

In Year 4, students broaden their understanding of classification and form and function through an exploration of the properties of natural and processed materials. They learn that forces include non-contact forces and begin to appreciate that some interactions result from phenomena that can’t be seen with the naked eye. They begin to appreciate that current systems, such as Earth’s surface, have characteristics that have resulted from past changes and that living things form part of systems. They understand that some systems change in predictable ways, such as through cycles. They apply their knowledge to make predictions based on interactions within systems, including those involving the actions of humans.

Year 5

In Year 5, students are introduced to cause and effect relationships through an exploration of adaptations of living things and how this links to form and function. They explore observable phenomena associated with light and begin to appreciate that phenomena have sets of characteristic behaviours. They broaden their classification of matter to include gases and begin to see how matter structures the world around them. Students consider Earth as a component within a solar system and use models for investigating systems at astronomical scales. Students begin to identify stable and dynamic aspects of systems, and learn how to look for patterns and relationships between components of systems. They develop explanations for the patterns they observe.

Year 6

In Year 6, students explore how changes can be classified in different ways. They learn about transfer and transformations of electricity, and continue to develop an understanding of energy flows through systems. They link their experiences of electric circuits as a system at one scale to generation of electricity from a variety of sources at another scale and begin to see links between these systems. They develop a view of Earth as a dynamic system, in which changes in one aspect of the system impact on other aspects; similarly, they see that the growth and survival of living things are dependent on matter and energy flows within a larger system. Students begin to see the role of variables in measuring changes and the value of accuracy in these measurements. They learn how to look for patterns and to use these to identify and explain relationships by drawing on evidence.

Year 7

In Year 7, students explore the diversity of life on Earth and continue to develop their understanding of the role of classification in ordering and organising information. They use and develop models such as food chains, food webs and the water cycle to represent and analyse the flow of energy and matter through ecosystems and explore the impact of changing components within these systems. They consider the interaction between multiple forces when explaining changes in an object’s motion. They explore the notion of renewable and non-renewable resources and consider how this classification depends on the timescale considered. They investigate relationships in the Earth-sun-moon system and use models to predict and explain events. Students make accurate measurements and control variables to analyse relationships between system components. They explore and explain these relationships through appropriate representations and consider the role of science in decision making processes.

Year 8

In Year 8, students are introduced to cells as microscopic structures that explain macroscopic properties of living systems. They link form and function at a cellular level and explore the organisation of body systems in terms of flows of matter between interdependent organs. Similarly, they explore changes in matter at a particle level, and distinguish between chemical and physical change. They begin to classify different forms of energy, and describe the role of energy in causing change in systems, including the role of heat and kinetic energy in the rock cycle. Students use experimentation to isolate relationships between components in systems and explain these relationships through increasingly complex representations. They make predictions and propose explanations, drawing on evidence to support their views while considering other points of view.

Year 9

In Year 9, students consider the operation of systems at a range of scales. They explore ways in which the human body as a system responds to its external environment and the interdependencies between biotic and abiotic components of ecosystems. They are introduced to the notion of the atom as a system of protons, electrons and neutrons, and how this system can change through nuclear decay. They learn that matter can be rearranged through chemical change and that these changes play an important role in many systems. They are introduced to the concept of the conservation of matter and begin to develop a more sophisticated view of energy transfer. They begin to apply their understanding of energy and forces to global systems such as continental movement.

Year 10

Students develop their understanding of atomic theory to understand relationships within the periodic table. They understand that motion and forces are related by applying physical laws. They learn about the relationships between aspects of the living, physical and chemical world that are applied to systems on a local and global scale and this enables them to predict how changes will affect equilibrium within these systems.

Year 11 and 12 Biology

In Units 1 and 2, students build on prior learning to develop their understanding of relationships between structure and function in a range of biological systems, from ecosystems to single cells and multicellular organisms. In Unit 1, students analyse abiotic and biotic ecosystem components and their interactions, using classification systems for data collection, comparison and evaluation. In Unit 2, students investigate the interdependent components of the cell system and the multiple interacting systems in multicellular organisms.

In Units 3 and 4, students examine the continuity of biological systems and how they change over time in response to external factors. They examine and connect system interactions at the molecular level to system change at the organism and population levels. In Unit 3, students investigate mechanisms of heredity and the ways in which inheritance patterns can be explained, modelled and predicted; they connect these patterns to population dynamics and apply the theory of evolution by natural selection in order to examine changes in populations. In Unit 4, students investigate system change and continuity in response to changing external conditions and pathogens; they investigate homeostasis and the transmission and impact of infectious disease at cellular and organism levels; and they consider the factors that encourage or reduce the spread of infectious disease at the population level.

Year 11 and 12 Chemistry

In Unit 1, students use models of atomic structure and bonding to explain the macroscopic properties of materials and to predict the products and explain the energy changes associated with chemical reactions. In Unit 2, they continue to develop their understanding of bonding models and the relationship between structure, properties and reactions, including consideration of the factors that affect the rate of chemical reactions.

In Units 3 and 4, students further develop their knowledge of chemical processes introduced in Units 1 and 2, including considering energy transfers and transformations, calculations of chemical quantities, rates of reaction and chemical systems. In Unit 3, students investigate models of equilibrium in chemical systems; apply these models in the context of acids and bases and redox reactions, including electrochemical cells; and explain and predict how a range of factors affect these systems. In Unit 4, students use models of molecular structure, chemical reactions and energy changes to explain and apply synthesis processes, particularly with consideration of organic synthesis; and they consider current and future applications of chemical design principles.

Year 11 and 12 Physics

In Units 1 and 2, students further investigate energy, motion and forces, building on the ideas introduced in the F–10 Australian Curriculum: Science. In Unit 1, students investigate energy production by considering heating processes, radioactivity and nuclear reactions, and investigate energy transfer and transformation in electrical circuits. In Unit 2, students describe, explain and predict linear motion, and investigate the application of wave models to light and sound phenomena.

In Units 3 and 4, students are introduced to more complex models that enable them to describe, explain and predict a wider range of phenomena, including, in Unit 4, very high speed motion and very small scale objects. In Unit 3, students investigate models of motion in gravitational, electric and magnetic fields to explain how forces act at a distance, and use the theory of electromagnetism to explain the production and propagation of electromagnetic waves. In Unit 4, students investigate how shortcomings in existing theories led to the development of the Special Theory of Relativity, the quantum theory of light and matter, and the Standard Model of particle physics.

Last reviewed 08 September 2020
Last updated 08 September 2020