New Junior Cert Science What Can You Expect?

The new specifications for science subjects, at both Junior Cert and Leaving Cert, put an emphasis on the application of knowledge in real-world contexts. In other words, students should be able "to do" rather than only "to know".


As students develop their investigative skills, they will be encouraged to examine scientific evidence from their own experiments and draw justifiable conclusions based on the actual evidence. In reviewing and evaluating their own and others’ scientific evidence and data, they will learn to identify limitations and improvements in their investigations.

This collaborative approach will increase students’ motivation and provide opportunities for working in groups and to develop the key skills of Junior Cycle.


Science in Junior Cycle aims to develop students’ evidence-based understanding of the natural world and their ability to gather and evaluate evidence: to consolidate and deepen their skills of working scientifically; to make them more self-aware as learners and become competent and confident in their ability to use and apply science in their everyday lives.

It encourages all students:

• to develop a sense of enjoyment in the learning of science, leading to a lifelong interest in science

• to develop scientific literacy and apply this in cognitive, affective and psychomotor dimensions to the analysis of science issues relevant to society, the environment and sustainability

• to develop a scientific habit of mind and inquiry orientation through class, laboratory and/ or off-site activities that foster investigation, imagination, curiosity and creativity in solving engaging, relevant problems, and to improve their reasoning and decision-making abilities

• to develop the key skills of junior cycle to find, use, manage, synthesize, and evaluate data; to communicate scientific understanding and findings using a variety of media; and to justify ideas on the basis of evidence

• to acquire a body of scientific knowledge; to develop an understanding of Earth and space and their place in the physical, biological, and chemical world and to help establish a foundation for more advanced learning.


Junior Cycle science is linked to central features of learning and teaching outlined in the Framework for Junior Cycle.

Examples of relevant learning


The student understands the origins and impacts of social, economic, and environmental aspects of the world around her/him. Students will collect and examine data to make appraisals about ideas, solutions or methods by which humans can successfully conserve ecological biodiversity.

SOL 10

The student has the awareness, knowledge, skills, values and motivation to live sustainably. Students will engage critically in a balanced review of scientific texts relating to the sustainability issues that arise from our generation and consumption of electricity.

SOL 13

The student understands the importance of food and diet in making healthy lifestyle choices. Students will collect and examine evidence to make judgements on how human health can be affected by inherited factors and environmental factors, including nutrition and lifestyle choices.

SOL 15

The student recognizes the potential uses of mathematical knowledge, skills and understanding in all areas of learning. Students will participate in a wide range of mathematical activities as they analyze data presented in mathematical form, and use appropriate mathematical models, formulae or techniques to draw relevant conclusions.

SOL 16

The student describes, illustrates, interprets, predicts and explains patterns and relationships. Through investigation, students will learn how to describe, illustrate, interpret, predict and explain patterns and relationships between physical observables.

SOL 17

The student devises and evaluates strategies for investigating and solving problems using mathematical knowledge, reasoning and skills. Through planning and conducting scientific investigations, students will learn to develop their critical thinking and reasoning skills as they apply their knowledge and understanding to generate questions and answers rather than to recall answers.

SOL 18

The student observes and evaluates empirical events and processes and draws valid deductions and conclusions. Students will engage in an analysis of natural processes: through observation and evaluation of the processes, they will generate questions as they seek to draw valid deductions and conclusions.

SOL 19

The student values the role and contribution of science and technology to society, and their personal, social and global importance. Students will research and present information on the contributions that scientists make to scientific discovery and invention, and the impact of these on society.


The examples below identify some of the elements that are related to learning activities in science. Teachers can also build many of the other elements of particular key skills into their classroom planning. The eight key skills are set out in detail in Key Skills of Junior Cycle.

The Junior Cycle curriculum focuses on eight key skills:

• Being creative

• Being literate

• Being numerate

• Communicating

• Managing information and thinking

• Managing myself

• Staying well

• Working with others



The specification for Junior Cycle Science focuses on the development of students’ knowledge of and about science through the unifying strand, Nature of science, and the four contextual strands: Physical world, Chemical world, Biological world, and Earth and space.

It has been designed for a minimum of 200 hours of timetabled student engagement across the 3 years of Junior Cycle.

Nature of science

The elements of this strand place a focus on how science works; carrying out investigations; communicating in science; and developing an appreciation of the role and contribution of science and scientists to society. There is a strong focus on scientific inquiry.

This makes the science classroom a dynamic and interactive space, in which students are active participants in their development. They can engage not only in experimental activities and discussion within the classroom, but also in researching and evaluating information to look beyond claims and opinions to analyze the evidence which supports them.

Earth and space

 To develop a sense of the structure of the universe and some organizing principles of astronomy, students explore relationships between many kinds of astronomical objects and evidence for the history of the universe. Students use data to discern patterns in the motion of the Sun, Moon, and stars and develop models to explain and predict phenomena such as day and night, seasons, and lunar phases.

The cycling of matter, with carbon and water cycles as well-known examples, provides a rich setting for students to develop an understanding of many physical and chemical processes including energy conservation and energy resources, weather and climate, and the idea of cycling itself. They will come to appreciate the impact of human activity on Earth and explore the role and implications of human space exploration.

Chemical world

 As students study this strand they will develop understandings of the composition and properties of matter, the changes it undergoes, and the energy involved.

They learn to interpret their observations by considering the properties and behaviour of atoms, molecules, and ions. They learn to communicate their understandings using representations, and the symbols and conventions of chemistry. Our way of life depends on a wide range of materials produced from natural resources.

In this strand students will learn about assessing the resources used to produce a material over its lifecycle (extraction, use, disposal and recycling). Using this, they are better able to understand science-related challenges, such as environmental sustainability and the development of new materials, and sources of energy.

Physical world

This involves the exploration of physical observables, often in relation to motion, energy, and electricity. Students gain an understanding of fundamental concepts such as length, time, mass and temperature through appropriate experiments.

This allows them to develop simultaneously a sense of scaling and proportional reasoning, to recognize the need for common units, and to select and use appropriate measuring equipment.

Exploring concepts such as area, density, current, and energy helps students develop the ability to identify and measure a range of physical observables, and through experimenting, to investigate patterns and relationships between them. Students also design and build simple electronic circuits.

Students develop an understanding of the concept of energy and how it is transformed from one form to another without loss.

They also research sustainability issues that arise from modern physics and technologies, and our generation and consumption of electricity.

Biological world

In this strand students are introduced to the cell as the basic unit of life, and how characteristics are inherited from one generation to the next. Students develop an understanding of the diversity of life, life processes and how life has evolved.

Students will explore body systems and how they interact, and learn about human health. They will investigate living things and their interdependence and interactions with ecosystems. They will learn about issues of social importance, such as the impact of humans on the natural world.


While the learning outcomes associated with each strand are set out separately here, this should not be taken to imply that the strands are to be studied in isolation.

To give further emphasis to the integrated nature of learning science, the outcomes for each of the contextual strands are grouped by reference to four elements: Building blocks, Systems and interactions, Energy, and Sustainability.

Building blocks

Focuses on the essential scientific ideas that underpin each strand.

Systems and interactions

Examines how a collection of living and/or non-living things and processes interact to perform some function/s: there is a focus on the input, outputs, and relationships among system components.


A unifying concept that students can develop across the strands: it is an obvious integrating element as all phenomena we observe on earth and in space involve the transformation and variation of energy.


Focuses on the concept of meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. 

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