Engaging primary students in learning about New Zealand birds: A socially relevant context

Junjun CHEN, Bronwen COWIE

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)


This article reports on a classroom study of a unit on New Zealand birds that focused on adaptation and conservation in a Year 7 class. The unit used a ‘context as social circumstances’ model. The researchers observed the nine lessons and interviewed students, the classroom teacher, and three other teachers who had taught the same unit. The students completed a pre-test and a post-test for the unit. Findings indicate that the students enjoyed and were interested in the unit, and had learnt more than usual. The students investigated predators using the tracking tunnel in their school gully and, of their own volition, in their home gardens. Some students pursued this interest into the wider community after the completion of the unit. The ‘context as social circumstances’ unit teachers helped students see the relevance of learning science for their lives, personally and socially, which opens up the possibility of action outside the classroom. The role of context, content and activity selection in the design of a unit that has social relevance is discussed. Copyright © 2013 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1344-1366
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Issue number8
Early online dateFeb 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013



Chen, J., & Cowie, B. (2013). Engaging primary students in learning about New Zealand birds: A socially relevant context. International Journal of Science Education, 35(8), 1344-1366. doi:10.1080/09500693.2012.763194.


  • Context-based
  • Biology
  • Primary science
  • Coherence
  • Pedagogy