Abstract This study explored the effects that the incorporation of nature of science (NoS) activities in the primary science classroom had on children’s perceptions and understanding of science. We compared children’s ideas in four classes by inviting them to talk, draw and write about what science meant to them: two of the classes were taught by ‘NoS’ teachers who had completed an elective nature of science (NoS) course in the final year of their Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) degree. The ‘non-NoS’ teachers who did not attend this course taught the other two classes. All four teachers had graduated from the same initial teacher education institution with similar teaching grades and all had carried out the same science methods course during their B.Ed programme. We found that children taught by the teachers who had been NoS-trained developed more elaborate notions of nature of science, as might be expected. More importantly, their reflections on science and their science lessons evidenced a more in-depth and sophisticated articulation of the scientific process in terms of scientists “trying their best” and “sometimes getting it wrong” as well as “getting different answers”. Unlike children from non-NoS classes, those who had engaged in and reflected on NoS activities talked about their own science lessons in the sense of ‘doing science’. These children also expressed more positive attitudes about their science lessons than those from non-NoS classes. We therefore suggest that there is added value in including NoS activities in the primary science curriculum in that they seem to help children make sense of science and the scientific process, which could lead to improved attitudes towards school science. We argue that as opposed to considering the relevance of school science only in terms of children’s experience, relevance should include relevance to the world of science, and NoS activities can help children to link school science to science itself.
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