Integrated Science Curriculum and Assessment Guide (Secondary 4 - 6)

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Science Education Key Learning Area

Integrated Science

Curriculum and Assessment Guide (Secondary 4 - 6)

Jointly prepared by the Curriculum Development Council and The Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority Recommended for use in schools by the Education Bureau




Preamble i

Acronyms iii

Chapter 1 Introduction 1

1.1 Background 1

1.2 Implementation of Science Subjects in Schools 2

1.3 Rationale 3

1.4 Curriculum Aims 4

1.5 Interface with Junior Secondary Curriculum and Post-secondary Pathways 4

Chapter 2 Curriculum Framework 7

2.1 Design Principles 7

2.2 Learning Targets 9

2.3 Curriculum Structure and Organisation 13

2.3.3 Compulsory Part 17

2.3.4 Elective Part 63

2.4 Learning Outcomes 84

Chapter 3 Curriculum Planning 89

3.1 Guiding Principles 89

3.2 Progression 89

3.3 Curriculum Planning Strategies 91

3.4 Managing the Curriculum 95

Chapter 4 Learning and Teaching 101

4.1 Guiding Principles 101

4.2 Knowledge and Learning 102

4.3 Approaches and Strategies 104

4.4 Interaction 110

4.5 Catering for Learner Diversity 112

Chapter 5 Assessment 117

5.1 The Roles of Assessment 117


5.3 Assessment Objectives 119

5.4 Internal Assessment 120

5.5 Public Assessment 123

Chapter 6 Learning and Teaching Resources 129

6.1 Purpose and Function of Learning and Teaching Resources 129

6.2 Guiding Principles 129

6.3 Types of Resources 129

6.4 Resource Management 135


1 Timetable arrangement and deployment of teachers to cater for the diverse needs

of students 137

2 Prior Knowledge Developed in the Science (S1-3) Curriculum 141

3 Community Resources 143

Glossary 149

References 155

Membership of the CDC-HKEAA Committee on Integrated Science



The Education and Manpower Bureau (EMB, now renamed Education Bureau (EDB)) stated in its report1 in 2005 that the implementation of a three-year senior secondary academic structure would commence at Secondary 4 in September 2009. The senior secondary academic structure is supported by a flexible, coherent and diversified senior secondary curriculum aimed at catering for students’ varied interests, needs and abilities. This Curriculum and Assessment (C&A) Guide is one of the series of documents prepared for the senior secondary curriculum. It is based on the goals of senior secondary education and on other official documents related to the curriculum and assessment reform since 2000 including the Basic Education Curriculum Guide (2002) and the Senior Secondary Curriculum Guide (2009). To gain a full understanding of the connection between education at the senior secondary level and other key stages, and how effective learning, teaching and assessment can be achieved, it is strongly recommended that reference should be made to all related documents.

This C&A Guide is designed to provide the rationale and aims of the subject curriculum, followed by chapters on the curriculum framework, curriculum planning, pedagogy, assessment and use of learning and teaching resources. One key concept underlying the senior secondary curriculum is that curriculum, pedagogy and assessment should be well aligned. While learning and teaching strategies form an integral part of the curriculum and are conducive to promoting learning to learn and whole-person development, assessment should also be recognised not only as a means to gauge performance but also to improve learning. To understand the interplay between these three key components, all chapters in the C&A Guide should be read in a holistic manner.

The C&A Guide was jointly prepared by the Curriculum Development Council (CDC) and the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) in 2007. The first updating was made in January 2014 to align with the short-term recommendations made on senior secondary curriculum and assessment resulting from the New Academic Structure (NAS) review so that students and teachers could benefit at the earliest possible instance.

This updating is made to align with the medium-term recommendations of the NAS review made on curriculum and assessment. The CDC is an advisory body that gives recommendations to the HKSAR Government on all matters relating to curriculum development for the school system from kindergarten to senior secondary level. Its membership includes heads of schools, practising teachers, parents, employers, academics

1 The report is The New Academic Structure for Senior Secondary Education and Higher Education – Action


from tertiary institutions, professionals from related fields/bodies, representatives from the HKEAA and the Vocational Training Council (VTC), as well as officers from the EDB. The HKEAA is an independent statutory body responsible for the conduct of public assessment, including the assessment for the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE). Its governing council includes members drawn from the school sector, tertiary institutions and government bodies, as well as professionals and members of the business community.

The C&A Guide is recommended by the EDB for use in secondary schools. The subject curriculum forms the basis of the assessment designed and administered by the HKEAA. In this connection, the HKEAA will issue a handbook to provide information on the rules and regulations of the HKDSE examination as well as the structure and format of public assessment for each subject.

The CDC and HKEAA will keep the subject curriculum under constant review and evaluation in the light of classroom experiences, students’ performance in the public assessment, and the changing needs of students and society. All comments and suggestions on this C&A Guide may be sent to:

Chief Curriculum Development Officer (Science Education) Curriculum Development Institute

Education Bureau

Room 232, 2/F, East Block

Education Bureau Kowloon Tong Education Services Centre 19 Suffolk Road,

Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong Fax: 2194 0670




ApL Applied Learning

C&A Curriculum and Assessment

CDC Curriculum Development Council

EDB Education Bureau

EMB Education and Manpower Bureau

HKALE Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination HKDSE Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education HKEAA Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority HKSAR Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

IT Information Technology

KLA Key Learning Area

OLE Other Learning Experience R&D Research and Development P1/2/3/4/5/6 Primary 1/2/3/4/5/6 S1/2/3/4/5/6/7 Secondary 1/2/3/4/5/6/7

SBA School-based Assessment

SEN Special Educational Needs

STSE Science, Technology, Society and Environment

VTC Vocational Training Council


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Chapter 1 Introduction

This chapter provides the background, rationale and aims of Integrated Science as an elective subject in the three-year senior secondary curriculum, and highlights how it articulates with the junior secondary curriculum, post-secondary education, and future career pathways.

1.1 Background

The Education Commission’s education blueprint for the 21st Century, Learning for Life, Learning through Life – Reform proposals for the Education System in Hong Kong (2000), highlighted the vital need for a broad knowledge base to enable our students to function effectively in a global and technological society such as Hong Kong’s, and all subsequent consultation reports have echoed this. The New Academic Structure for Senior Secondary Education and Higher Education – Action Plan for Investing in the Future of Hong Kong (2005) advocated the development of a broad and balanced curriculum emphasising whole-person development and preparation for lifelong learning. Besides the four core subjects – Chinese Language, English Language, Mathematics and Liberal Studies – students are encouraged to select two or three elective subjects from different Key Learning Areas (KLAs) according to their interests and abilities, and also to engage in a variety of essential learning experiences such as aesthetic activities, physical activities, career-related experiences, community service, and moral and civic education. This replaces the traditional practice of streaming students into science, arts and technical/commercial subjects.

Study of the three different areas of biology, chemistry and physics often complement and supplement each other. In order to provide a balanced learning experience for students studying sciences, the following elective subjects are offered under the Science Education KLA:

Biology, Chemistry and Physics

These subjects are designed to provide a concrete foundation in the respective disciplines for further studies or careers.


This subject operates in two modes. Mode I, entitled Integrated Science, adopts an interdisciplinary approach to the study of science, while Mode II, entitled Combined Science, adopts a combined approach. The two modes are developed in such a way as to provide space for students to take up elective subjects from other KLAs after taking


Mode I: Integrated Science

This is designed for students wishing to take up one elective subject in the Science Education KLA. It serves to develop in students the scientific literacy essential for participating in a dynamically changing society, and to support other aspects of learning across the school curriculum. Students taking this subject will be provided with a comprehensive and balanced learning experience in the different disciplines of science, while leaving space for them to widen their horizons by taking subjects from other KLAs.

Mode II: Combined Science

Students wishing to take two elective subjects in the Science Education KLA are recommended to take one of the Combined Science electives together with one specialised science subject. Each Combined Science elective contains two parts, and these should be the parts that complement the discipline in which they specialise. Students are, therefore, offered three possible combinations:

• Combined Science (Physics, Chemistry) + Biology

• Combined Science (Biology, Physics) + Chemistry

• Combined Science (Chemistry, Biology) + Physics

1.2 Implementation of Science Subjects in Schools

The five separate Curriculum and Assessment Guides for the subjects of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Integrated Science and Combined Science are prepared for the reference of school managers and teachers, who are involved in school-based curriculum planning, designing learning and teaching activities, assessing students, allocating resources and providing administrative support to deliver the curricula in schools. Arrangements for time-tabling and deployment of teachers are given in Appendix 1.

This Integrated Science Curriculum and Assessment Guide is concerned with the delivery of Mode I of the Senior Secondary Science Curriculum.

Combined Science (Physics, Chemistry) Combined Science (Biology, Physics) Combined Science (Chemistry, Biology)


1.3 Rationale

The Integrated Science curriculum aims to develop in students a broad and sound knowledge base to meet the challenges of living in a technologically advanced society. The curriculum adopts an interdisciplinary thematic approach. Students taking this subject will benefit from learning science concepts from different disciplines of science in contexts which are expected to have enduring relevance to them in the next decade and beyond. Through systematic inquiry, they will develop scientific knowledge and skills to help them evaluate the impact of scientific and technological developments.

The Integrated Science curriculum follows the general direction for the development of the school science curriculum set out in the Science Education Key Learning Area Curriculum Guide (Primary 1 – Secondary 3) (2002), which put forward a framework for arranging major learning elements in science into six strands: ‘Scientific Investigation’, ‘Life and Living’, ‘The Material World’, ‘Energy and Change’, ‘The Earth and Beyond’ and ‘Science, Technology, Society and Environment (STSE)’. These six strands are inter-related and can be represented diagrammatically as follows:

Figure 1.1 Inter-relationship between the six strands in the school science curriculum The Integrated Science curriculum aims to empower students to be inquisitive, reflective and critical thinkers, by equipping them with a variety of ways of looking at the world and by emphasising the importance of evidence in forming conclusions. It is believed that in a technologically advanced society, like Hong Kong’s, many people will find a knowledge and understanding of science concepts useful to their work, and a competency in scientific inquiry of great value in creative problem solving in life.


1.4 Curriculum Aims

The overarching aim of the Integrated Science curriculum is to provide learning experiences that will enable students to develop scientific literacy, so that they can participate actively in our rapidly changing knowledge-based society, prepare for further study or a career in fields where a knowledge of science will be useful; and become life-long learners in science and technology.

The broad aims of the curriculum are to enable students to:

• develop interest in, and maintain a sense of wonder and curiosity about, the natural and technological world;

• acquire a broad and general understanding of key science ideas and explanatory frameworks of science, and appreciate how the ideas were developed and why they are valued;

• appreciate and develop an understanding of the nature of scientific knowledge;

• develop skills for making scientific inquiries;

• develop the ability to think scientifically, critically and creatively, and to solve problems individually or collaboratively in science-related contexts;

• use the language of science and communicate ideas and views on science-related issues;

• make informed decisions and judgments about science-related issues;

• be aware of the social, ethical, economic, environmental and technological implications of science and develop an attitude of responsible citizenship; and

• develop conceptual tools for thinking and making sense of the world.

1.5 Interface with Junior Secondary Curriculum and Post-secondary Pathways

To ensure a smooth transition between junior and senior secondary, schools should plan for the interface with the junior secondary science curriculum. Teachers should refer to the learning targets and objectives of Key Stage 3 in the Science Education Key Learning Area Curriculum Guide (Primary 1 – Secondary 3) (2002), as well as the CDC Science (S1-3) Syllabus (1998). Schools should make arrangements to complete the core parts of the Science (S1-3) syllabus before starting this curriculum.


While building on the foundations developed in the Science (S1-3) curriculum, Integrated Science provides students with a wider range of scientific ideas and considers them in greater depth. Students are given many opportunities to reflect on issues and controversies in matters involving science and technology, and so become better informed and more sophisticated consumers of science-related information. The kinds of reasoning used to develop arguments, such as assessing the certainty of data, evaluating evidence about correlation and cause, and assessing the risks and benefits in using certain technologies, all contribute to preparing students to deal sensibly with everyday problems. By broadening and enriching their knowledge, skills and experiences in science, the Integrated Science curriculum also provides a firm foundation for further study, vocational training or work. It opens up a variety of possible post-secondary educational and careers pathways including Business Administration, Law, Dental Surgery, Risk Management Science, Actuarial Science, Information Engineering, Sports Sciences, etc.


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Chapter 2 Curriculum Framework

The curriculum framework for Integrated Science embodies the key knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that students are to develop at senior secondary level. It forms the basis on which schools and teachers plan their school-based curriculum and design appropriate learning, teaching and assessment activities.

2.1 Design Principles

The design of this curriculum is founded on the following principles, which are in line with those recommended in Chapter 3 of The New Academic Structure for Senior Secondary Education and Higher Education – Action Plan for Investing in the Future of Hong Kong (2005):

• Prior knowledge

This curriculum is built on the foundation developed in Basic Education. It follows the general direction for the development of the Science Education curriculum set out in the Science Education Key Learning Area Curriculum Guide (Primary 1 – Secondary 3) (2002), and extends the prior knowledge, skills and positive values and attitudes that students develop through the Science (S1-3) curriculum.

• Balance between breadth and depth

This curriculum is designed for students taking one elective subject in the Science Education KLA. Students taking this subject will be provided with comprehensive and balanced learning experiences in the different disciplines of science. A thematic approach which focuses on the key ideas in science has been adopted.

The curriculum does not cover all the areas in the traditional high school Biology, Chemistry and Physics curricula but, for selected topics, the treatment is deeper and the key ideas in science, unifying concepts and nature of science are fully illustrated.

• Balance between theoretical and applied learning

A thematic approach has been adopted and students will benefit from learning concepts and scientific ideas in contexts that bring out their relevance to everyday life. The emphasis of the curriculum is on an understanding of science to prepare our students to participate in discussion, debate and decision-making about the application and implications of science and technology.


• Balance between essential learning and a flexible and diversified curriculum

This curriculum consists of a compulsory part, made up of eight modules and an elective part. Students are allowed to choose two from the three elective modules at S6, according to their interests and aspirations for the future. The elective modules are designed to extend the knowledge and skills acquired through compulsory modules and provide opportunities for students to apply scientific concepts and understandings in an integrated manner.

• Learning how to learn

The overarching aim of the curriculum is to nurture students’ scientific literacy so that they develop ‘thinking tools’ for reflecting on science, see the coherence among seemingly diverse sets of ideas, and discover unifying concepts (such as systems, order and organisation) that pervade science and transcend disciplinary boundaries. These are powerful conceptual tools that enable students to see the overarching coherence in our natural world. The curriculum also draws attention to the understanding of the nature of science, that is, the process by which scientific knowledge is constructed and validated. For students, both the ability to see beyond facts and the development of a scientific way of thinking and knowing through inquiry are essential for both formal and informal learning and for participating intelligently in society as a whole.

• Coherence

The scientific explanations students acquire and the logical thinking they develop in this curriculum will support their studies in other areas of secondary education.

There are many opportunities for cross-curricular learning across core and other elective subjects.

• Multiple progression pathways

One consequence of the advancing globalization and technological dependence of our society is that even people outside the science professions are finding that issues of concern to them tend to have a scientific dimension. By studying this subject, our students will be better equipped to deal sensibly with everyday problems involving the use of evidence, quantitative considerations, logical arguments and uncertainty. The knowledge, thinking and problem-solving skills acquired in the curriculum will help students to pursue further study in a wide range of academic and vocational/professional programmes in tertiary institutions, e.g. Business Administration, Law, Dental Surgery, Risk Management Science,


2.2 Learning Targets

In adopting a thematic approach based on contexts of daily relevance, it is expected that students will develop understanding of (i) the key ideas in science, (ii) the nature of science and (iii) unifying concepts in science. The following diagram summarises the relationship between the various elements of the Integrated Science curriculum.

Our planet Earth Radioactivity

Electricity and magnetism Forces and motion

Conservation of energy Conservation of matter

Biological evolution Homeostasis and


The gene theory of inheritance Biodiversity and


The chemical basis of life Materials and their


Chemical change The atomic world

Scientific attitudeScientific thinkingScientific practiceScientific community

Systems, order

& organisation

Change, constancy, evolution & equilibrium Evidence, models

& explanation

Form and function

Unifying Concepts

Natur e of Sc ie nce

K ey Id ea s in S ci en ce

Figure 2.1 Framework of the Integrated Science curriculum

2.2.1 Key Ideas in Science

The modules in this curriculum are structured around a number of key ideas in science.

Students will be led to probe situations of interest and daily relevance, such as: “What is the chemical basis of life?”; “Is the Earth warming up?”; “How do energy and matter interact?”;

“Why do we sometimes fall sick?”; and “Is radiation a friend or a foe?”. Explanatory stories will be used to provide students access to “How do we know?”. It is intended that students should focus on a small number of key ideas so that they can work on them in depth to gain a better understanding and be able to apply what they have learned. As seen in the diagrammatic framework (Figure 2.1), the following key ideas in science have been selected after consulting a range of international curriculum documents and considering their relevance and usefulness to our students:


• The atomic world;

• Chemical change;

• Materials and their properties;

• The chemical basis of life;

• Biodiversity and ecosystems;

• The gene theory of inheritance;

• Homeostasis and coordination;

• Biological evolution;

• Conservation of matter;

• Conservation of energy;

• Forces and motion;

• Electricity and magnetism;

• Radioactivity;

• Our planet Earth

2.2.2 Nature of Science

The Integrated Science curriculum is concerned with the process by which scientific knowledge is constructed and validated. In the course of study, students will be led to stand back and examine what has happened, to go through some of the intellectual explorations, to analyse, and to assess the line of thought, recognising the elements of its logic, its strength, and its limitations . In this way students will develop an understanding of how reliable knowledge about the natural world is obtained. The different facets of the nature of science that will be highlighted in the curriculum are outlined below:

• Scientific attitude: searching for truth; science is based on evidence and empirical standards; and it also encourages innovation and scepticism

• Scientific thinking: scientific knowledge is built on creative thinking; the application of deductive and inductive logic leads to the emergence of new scientific theories, which are then tested empirically; scientific knowledge, while durable, has a tentative character

• Scientific practice: precise experimental design and proper instrumentation;

prudent handling of quantitative and qualitative data; honest reporting

• Scientific community: community with a collective wisdom, encouraging free exchange and open-minded discussion and debate; scientists critically assess new discoveries via a peer-reviewing system


2.2.3 Unifying Concepts

The Integrated Science curriculum encompasses concepts and understandings in the six strands of the Science Education KLA (Figure 1.1). Apart from widening students’ exposure to contemporary science relevant to their daily lives, the curriculum also attempts to provide some conceptual tools with which students can proceed beyond the facts. Thus, the unifying concepts that pervade science and transcend disciplinary boundaries are highlighted. These unifying concepts are powerful conceptual tools, which help students see the overarching coherence in our understanding of the natural world. The unifying concepts covered in this curriculum are:

• Systems, order, and organisation: These are ways of observing and describing phenomena that are related to each other and/or work together as a whole.

(a) Systems: an organised group of related objects or components that form a whole. Thinking and analysing in terms of systems will help students to keep track of mass, energy, objects, organisms and events. Drawing the boundary of a system well can make the difference between understanding and not understanding what is going on. For instance, the conservation of mass during burning was not recognised for a long time, because the gases produced were not included in the system whose weight was measured.

(b) Order: an arrangement showing patterns or sequence. Examples include the seasonal weather patterns and the order of behaviour of chromosomes during cell replication.

(c) Organisation: the act or process of being organised, a condition of things being put into a structural framework according to a particular hierarchy.

Examples include the periodic table of the elements, and the different levels of organisation in living things such as cells, tissues, organs and systems.

• Evidence, models and explanation: Scientists use evidence and models to understand, explain and/or predict scientific phenomena.

(a) Evidence: consists of observations and data on which to base scientific explanations. Using evidence to understand interactions allows individuals to predict changes in natural and designed systems. Examples of evidence include the smell of food (evidence that dinner is ready), and water droplets formed on a glass (evidence of the content inside the glass being cooler).

(b) Models: representations that are taken to illustrate real systems, objects, concepts, events, or classes of events. They can be used to explain, predict and study how real objects work. Models can be physical, conceptual, or


mathematical. Examples of physical models include the molecular structure of chemical substances and the cell model; and examples of conceptual models include models of the atom showing the nucleus and orbiting electrons, and gas molecules colliding to produce pressure. An example of a mathematical model is the equation representing the exponential growth in the number of bacteria undergoing binary fission (Number of bacteria = 2n, where n = number of division).

• Change, constancy, evolution and equilibrium: Change, constancy, evolution and equilibrium all describe states of being of a scientific phenomenon.

(a) Change: a process resulting in alteration. Examples include the chemical changes in combustion or the transformation of electrical energy to heat and light energy in a complete circuit with a cell and a bulb.

(b) Constancy: the state of being unchanged or some aspects of systems that have the remarkable property of always being conserved. Examples include the speed of light and the conservation of energy.

(c) Evolution: a series of changes, some gradual and some sporadic, that account for the present form and function of objects, organisms and natural systems.

The general idea of evolution is that the present is a consequence of materials and forms of the past. Examples include ecological succession, and climatic changes due to enhanced greenhouse effect.

(d) Equilibrium: a physical state in which forces or changes occur in opposite and offsetting directions. The ultimate fate of most physical systems, as energy available for action dissipates, is that they settle into a state of equilibrium.

Examples include a falling rock coming to rest at the foot of a cliff, and maintenance of human body temperature.

• Form and function:

(a) Form: the shape and structure of an object

(b) Function: the role that an object, activity or job has, or the purpose for which it is used.

Form and function are usually interrelated. For example, a fish has fins (form), which allow it to swim (function); and to improve the efficiency (function) of a boat, it is designed with a streamlined body (form) so as to reduce friction. In the modern technological world, artefacts are always designed (form) with their function in mind.


2.3 Curriculum Structure and Organisation

2.3.1 Curriculum Structure

The curriculum consists of a compulsory part, made up of eight modules, and an elective part, made up of three modules. Students are required to complete the compulsory part and choose two out of the three modules offered in the elective part. All the modules focus on a theme.

Organising the concepts and scientific ideas in themes helps to bring out their relevance to everyday life and so makes the learning more meaningful to students.

Elective modules are included in the curriculum to offer choice to students with different interests and aspirations, and to prepare them for different tertiary programmes and career paths. The elective modules extend the knowledge and skills acquired through the compulsory modules and provide opportunities for students to apply their scientific concepts and understanding in an integrated manner. They also illustrate ways in which science is applied in contemporary life and involve students in extended problem-solving investigations.

The following diagram illustrates the interconnection between the modules in the compulsory part and those in the elective part:

Figure 2.2 Interconnection between the compulsory and elective modules

A total of 250 hours 1 is allocated to cover the whole curriculum. Of the 250 hours, 14 are used for scientific investigation, to develop students’ skills for scientific inquiry and a scientific attitude. Teachers can decide on the lesson hours for scientific investigation in different modules, and can use the 14 hours as time for students to carry out cross-theme/discipline investigations of a relatively large scale. An estimate of the number of hours required for the compulsory and elective parts is shown below:

1 The lesson time for Liberal Studies and each elective subject is 250 hours (or 10% of the total allocation time) for planning purpose, and schools have the flexibility to allocate lesson time at their discretion in order to enhance learning and teaching effectiveness and cater for students’ needs.

E3 E1

C7 C6


C2 C3 C4 C5 C8



“250 hours” is the planning parameter for each elective subject to meet local curriculum needs as well as requirements of international benchmarking. In view of the need to cater for schools with students of various abilities and interests, particularly the lower achievers, “270 hours” was recommended to facilitate schools’

planning at the initial stage and to provide more time for teachers to attempt various teaching methods for the NSS curriculum. Based on the calculation of each elective subject taking up 10% of the total allocation time, 2500 hours is the basis for planning the 3-year senior secondary curriculum. This concurs with the reality check and feedback collected from schools in the short-term review, and a flexible range of 2400±200 hours is recommended to further cater for school and learner diversity.

As always, the amount of time spent in learning and teaching is governed by a variety of factors, including whole-school curriculum planning, learners’ abilities and needs, students’ prior knowledge, teaching and assessment strategies, teaching styles and the number of subjects offered. Schools should exercise professional judgement and flexibility over time allocation to achieve specific curriculum aims and objectives as well as to suit students' specific needs and the school context.

Suggested lesson time (Hours)

Scientific Investigation 14

Fourteen hours of the total curriculum time are allocated for relatively large-scale or cross-theme/discipline investigations.

However, simple investigations requiring shorter periods of time should be subsumed in other practical work in the lesson time suggested for each section.

Compulsory Modules

C1 Water for Living 22

C2 Balance within Our Body 22

C3 Science in a Sprint 22

C4 Chemical Patterns 22

C5 Electrical Enlightenment 22

C6 Balance in Nature 22

C7 Radiation and Us 22

C8 From Genes to Life 22

Elective Modules (2 out of 3)

E1 Energy, Weather and Air Quality 30

E2 Keeping Ourselves Healthy 30

E3 Chemistry for World Needs 30

Figure 2.3 Suggested time allocation


2.3.2 Curriculum Organisation

In this document, the content of each module is organised into two major parts: Overview and Table of Content.

The introduction in the Overview explains briefly the philosophy of the module and the context. It outlines the major theme and, where appropriate, the nature of science and the unifying concepts the module is designed to introduce. Focusing questions are included to help students direct their learning. A diagrammatic representation of the module organisation is also provided as a blueprint of the major concepts and interconnections. Possible sequences for the delivery of some modules are also included for teachers’ reference. However, teachers are encouraged to draw up schemes of work to suit the needs, interests and abilities of their students.

The Table of Content is organised into three parts to elaborate on the theme:

• The ‘Students should learn’ column lists the knowledge content

• The ‘Suggested learning and teaching activities’ column suggests learning activities to facilitate students’ learning of the knowledge content and develop their skills. The suggested activities are not exhaustive and should not be regarded as mandatory. Teachers should exercise their professional judgment in selecting and including appropriate activities to enrich students’ learning experiences.

• The ‘Module highlights’ list the opportunities offered in each module for the development of the unifying concepts and nature of science. They also spell out specific values and attitudes that can be developed through the learning of the module. In addition, this list relates the science concepts developed in the module to technology, society and the environment.


Compulsory Part



2.3.3 Compulsory Part

C 1 Water for Living 18

C 2 Balance within Our Body 23

C 3 Science in a Sprint 28

C 4 Chemical Patterns 33

C 5 Electrical Enlightenment 39

C 6 Balance in Nature 45

C 7 Radiation and Us 50

C 8 From Genes to Life 56


C 1 Water for Living

Overview Introduction

Water is an apparently simple molecule that can be found almost everywhere on Earth. It is vital to living organisms both in regulating their life processes and the environment which they inhabit. Water is believed to be a pre-requisite for the emergence of living organisms.

Today, many problems in our world are related to water supply and quality, including drought, flooding and pollution.

In this module, students look into the science of water as a basis of life. The unique physical and chemical properties of water render it a useful solvent, a reactant in metabolic reactions, and a temperature regulator in living organisms and our physical environment at large.

Having recognised the importance of water to life, students are led to examine the impact of human activities on this shared resource and how the accessibility of clean water and a steady water supply may affect a country’s development.

A number of unifying concepts are elucidated in this module. An examination of the structural adaptations needed for coping with life on land illustrates the interrelationship between form and function. Another unifying concept, constancy and change, is illustrated in the water cycle. Through examining arguments supporting or refuting the claim ‘life begins in water’, students will come to appreciate how evidence and their interpretations play their parts in helping scientists to make sense of the world.

Focusing Questions

• What makes water so unique as a solvent, coolant and medium for biochemical reactions to take place?

• How important is water to the proper functioning of a living organism?

• How significant is water to our physical environment?

• How does an adequate water supply influence a country’s course of development?

• ‘Life begins in water’ – what evidence is there to support or refute this claim?


Module Organisation


Water distribution and civilisation

y Agricultural development y Economic development

Physical environment y Water cycle

y Climate

y Greenhouse effect

Water problems y Water quality y Water crisis

y Water conservation Sustaining life

y Medium for biochemical reactions

y Reactant in biological systems y Temperature regulation y Support

y Life below icy surfaces y ‘Life begins in water’

Uses y Solvent y Cleaning y Cooling agent Physical properties

Chemical properties



Suggested Teaching Sequences

Set: Water problems in China (drought, desertification, soil erosion, flooding)

Water distribution, use and waste

Effects of human activities on the balance of water distribution and water quality

The unique properties of water

Importance of water to living organisms and the physical environment

Water and biological evolution

Set: Presence of water as evidence of life

Importance of water to living organisms and the physical environment

Effects of human activities on the balance of water distribution and water quality

Water and biological evolution The unique properties of water

Water distribution, use and waste

Sequence A Sequence B


C 1: Water for Living

Students should learn Suggested learning and teaching activities 1.1 The unique properties of water

• The size and shape of a water molecule

• The intermolecular forces between water molecules (van der Waals’ forces and H-bonding)

• Properties of water

Solvent action of water

The dissociation of water (H2O H++OH-) and the pH scale

Maximum density at 4 oC

High specific heat capacity

High specific latent heat of vaporisation and fusion

The occurrence of water in all three physical states on Earth

High surface tension

• Visualise the shape of a water molecule, and the arrangement of molecules in ice and liquid water using computer software

• Make cold packs – dissolving ammonium nitrate in water

• Make hot packs – crystallising salt from a supersaturated solution

• Simulate the formation of acid rain – bubbling SO2 or CO2 into water and testing the pH

• Investigate the energy needed to raise the temperature of different materials by 1


1.2 Importance of water to living organisms and biological evolution

• Movement of water in and out of cells by osmosis

• Roles of water in

Biochemical reactions

Transporting materials

Facilitating gas exchange

Temperature regulation

Providing support

Sustaining life below icy surfaces

• Evidence that supports or refutes the claim ‘Life begins in water’

• Coping with life on land: structural adaptations for acquiring and conserving water, support, gas exchange and internal fertilisation

• Use models and analogies to describe how water molecules pass through cell membranes during osmosis

• Preserving food using different dehydrating methods: drying, osmotic dehydration (e.g. salting), freeze drying

• Internet search to appreciate the contribution of plastination to preserving biological specimens

• Discuss the use of fossil records and other arguments to support or refute the claim ‘Life begins in water’

• Discuss why mosses are restricted to moist areas

• Identify the structural adaptations found in a mudskipper for allowing it to live out of water

1.3 Importance of water to the physical environment


• Water cycle

• Influence on climate

• Greenhouse effect

• Experiments to simulate cloud formation and precipitation

• Internet search on the winter and summer average temperatures inland and near the coast

1.4 Effects of human activities on the balance of water distribution and water quality

• Domestic and industrial uses of water

• The impact on water systems of the release of substances in domestic sewage

• The causes and effects of water problems (drought, desertification, soil erosion, flooding) in China

• Global water distribution

• The global water crisis: water management and conservation

• Experiments to simulate how water can be used as a cooling agent in a car engine

• Collect newspaper clippings on how water problems may hinder the development of a country

• Information search on the causes and impacts of algal blooms in Hong Kong waters

• Visit a local sewage treatment plant

• Develop action plans to reduce water pollution

Module highlights

In this module, students have opportunities to:

• recognise that scientists use the molecular structure of water (a physical model) to explain its physical and chemical properties

• apreciate that the physical properties (e.g. density) of water are constant and that we can use these physical properties for the identification of water

• recognise that the different roles played by water in living organisms are related to the structure and shape of water molecules (form and function)

• realise the interrelationship between adaptations and the vital functions in terrestrial organisms (form and function)

• realise the importance of evidence in assessing the validity of scientific claims (e.g. the claim that ‘Life begins in water’) and theories

• appreciate the conservation of matter in the water cycle while water changes from one physical state to another

• appreciate that some water problems (e.g. desertification) demonstrate evolution driven by gradual changes resulting from human activities over a period of time

• develop an awareness of the importance of a clean water supply to personal health and a country’s development

• develop a concern for water problems associated with developments in Hong Kong and mainland China

• develop a commitment, and make a continual effort, to reduce water pollution


C 2 Balance within Our Body

Overview Introduction

The conditions in which life processes can take place are quite stringent, and fluctuations in the internal environment can profoundly affect the normal functioning of our cells. This module is concerned with how our body can maintain a stable internal environment.

In this module, the principles underlying the body’s adjustment mechanisms are outlined.

These involve negative feedback between a receptor and an effector to bring the conditions back to normal. The control of blood glucose level and the regulation of body temperature are used as illustrations.

Many of the body’s organs and physiological processes contribute to the above adjustment mechanism. The orderly and efficient functioning of these organs and processes require a means of coordination – that is the monitoring of activities of different parts and the flow of information among the parts through receiving, integrating and subsequently issuing appropriate commands. There are two kinds of integration in humans: nervous and hormonal.

The two systems interact in a dynamic way in order to maintain the constancy of our internal environment, while permitting changes in response to a varying external environment.

Besides the self-regulation of our internal environment, we may also try to manipulate it. For example, when very busy at work, people may like to be energised by drinking a cup of coffee or feel relaxed by taking alcohol. One may also enhance one’s mood with moderate exercise. The scientific basis involved is explored. However, with continuous overloading or other effects, our body may show various symptoms of stress or depression. The possible cause of depression due to low levels of specific neurotransmitters and the role of possible therapeutic drugs is also discussed.

Focusing Questions

• What is homeostasis and why it is important to us?

• How is our body temperature kept constant? How does our body regulate our blood glucose level?

• How do our nervous and hormonal systems contribute towards homeostasis?

• What is the relationship between mental health and nervous coordination?


Module Organisation

Coordinated by Coordinated by


Balance upset


Balance upset Hormonal system

Heatstroke, hypothermia Regulation of

body temperature

Diabetes mellitus Regulation of

blood glucose level


Human manipulation y Moderate exercise y Caffeine

y Alcohol y Drug abuse Nervous system


Suggested Teaching Sequences

Concept of homeostasis

Example of homeostatic control:

blood glucose level regulation

Example of homeostatic control:

body temperature regulation

Nervous coordination and mental health Coordinating systems in humans

Concept of homeostasis

Coordinating systems in humans

Example of homeostatic control:

body temperature regulation Example of homeostatic control:

blood glucose level regulation

Nervous coordination and mental health

Sequence A Sequence B


C 2: Balance within Our Body

Students should learn Suggested learning and teaching activities 2.1 Homeostasis

• Concept of homeostasis and its significance

• Control system: receptors, coordinators, effectors

• Mechanism of negative feedback

• Animations to illustrate control by negative feedback in daily life (e.g. the operation of air-conditioner, the use of accelerator and brake in driving)

2.2 Regulation of body temperature

• Importance of body temperature regulation

The role of enzymes in metabolism

The effect of temperature on enzyme activity

• Core temperature and tolerance range, hypothermia, and heatstroke

• Balancing heat loss against heat gain

• Roles of different body parts in the regulation of body temperature

Receptors: skin receptors and hypothalamus

Coordinator: hypothalamus

Effectors: sweat glands, blood vessels and erector muscles in the skin; skeletal muscles

• Design and perform investigations to study the effects of temperature on the activities of enzymes

• Use audio-visual materials to show the enzyme catalysis mechanism and the effect of temperature on enzyme function

• Examine a model of mammalian skin for its features in relation to temperature regulation

• Activity for mapping effectors and their actions for temperature regulation

• Construct concept maps to show the mechanism of temperature regulation

2.3 Regulation of blood glucose level

• Importance of blood glucose level regulation

• The action of pancreatic hormones on blood glucose regulation

• Diabetes mellitus: types, symptoms and risk factors

• Construct concept maps to show the mechanism of blood glucose regulation

• Ask students to design a pamphlet to inform teenagers about the types, symptoms, risk factors, diagnostic tests, and management of diabetes.

• Test for glucose in urine 2.4 Coordinating systems in humans

• Hormonal coordination

Nature of hormonal coordination

• Nervous coordination

• Examine prepared slides or electron micrographs of a neurone to study its typical structures


system and peripheral nervous system

Role of the autonomic nervous system in homeostasis (e.g.

regulation of body temperature)

• The similarities and differences between hormonal and nervous coordination

• Use a model to illustrate the gross structure of the human brain

• Use a model or diagram to illustrate the median vertical section of the human brain

2.5 Nervous coordination and mental health

• Transmission of nerve impulse along a nerve fibre and across a synapse

• Role of neurotransmitters in synaptic transmission

• Mental illness in terms of imbalance of neurotransmitters or impairment of neurotransmitter reception

• Role of psychiatric drugs: adjusting neurotransmitter levels or acting on neuro-receptors

• Possible ways and effects of manipulating the nervous coordination pathway (e.g. taking caffeine, drinking alcohol, exercise-induced endorphin)

• Use audio-visual materials to show the conduction of nerve impulse, and the chemical transmission at the synapse

• Information search on the scientific basis of the harmful effects of any one of the following: stimulants,

depressants, hallucinogens, tranquillisers, narcotics, analgesics and


• Information search on the scientific basis of mental illness (e.g. psychosis and depression) and the respective therapeutic drugs

Module highlights

In this module, students have opportunities to:

• appreciate that our body is an organised system in which the well-being is maintained by the interactions among a number of sub-systems (e.g. hormonal and nervous systems)

• recognise that the components of our nervous system interact to keep our body temperature at a desirable level

• realise that the set points in a proper functioning system (e.g. body temperature kept at 37oC) is maintained by dynamic equilibrium – offsetting the equilibrium results in adverse health conditions

• understand, as illustrated by the regulation of blood glucose level and body temperature, that changes are necessary for correcting any deviations from the set points

• appreciate that the conceptual model of ‘lock and key’ helps to depict the importance of the complementary nature of hormones and neurotransmitters and their respective receptors on the cell surface for homeostatic control

• recognise the relationship between form and function as illustrated by nerve cells

• appreciate how evidence from brain research helps to change our understanding of mental illnesses

• develop concern and take responsibility for their own health (e.g. avoiding diets that prone to the development of diabetes, taking precautions to avoid heatstroke)


C 3 Science in a Sprint

Overview Introduction

Sprinting is a relevant experience for students and involves plenty of science, in both the physical and biological domains. In this module, the familiar context of a sprint is used to demonstrate the laws and principles of mechanics in a sequence that is natural to the episode.

In a sprint, the human body is viewed as a bio-machine with systems cooperating to enable effective movements. The physiology involved in providing sufficient energy for the sprint is also studied.

This topic focuses also on the measurement of the various parameters in a sprint.

Measurements will inevitably incur errors and students are expected to deal with them sensibly. Students should also attempt to use a computer software to analyse the different stages of a sprint so that they can focus on the interpretation of graphs. In this way, they will come to see how advanced technology facilitates measurement with a greater degree of accuracy.

After studying this topic, students will be able to apply the laws and principles of mechanics to other areas of everyday life, not just in the context of a sprint. They will also come to appreciate the design of our body and the importance of training for improving performance.

Focusing Questions

• How do Newton’s three Laws of Motion help us understand the motion of objects?

• How can we measure, describe and analyse motion?

• What is impact force? How can we reduce its magnitude during impact?

• How do our muscular and skeletal systems coordinate and work to bring about motion?

• How is energy produced in our body for sprinting?


Forces & motion

+ +

Processes in the human body Module Organisation

Analysis of motion


Crouch start &

starting block:

Newton’s 3rd Law


Newton’s 2nd Law

Maintaining speed


y Newton’s 1st Law

y Momentum &

impact force Measurement & data


Handling errors Graphical treatment

+ +

Coordinated muscle contraction allowing movement at joints

Lactic acid accumulation

& the repayment of oxygen debt

Enhancing performance

Production of energy from respiration for muscle contraction


C 3: Science in a Sprint

Students should learn Suggested learning and teaching activities 3.1 Forces and sprinting

• Crouch start and starting block:

Newton’s 3rd Law

• How to accelerate: Newton’s 2nd Law

• Maintaining speed

Centre of mass

Frictional force

Wind speed

• After breaking the tape: inertia and Newton’s 1st Law

• Watch video of a 100 metre race, observe carefully the motion of the sprinter at the different stages

• Experience the different impulses produced at the starting blocks in crouch starts

• Carry out various experiments to study Newton’s Laws

3.2 Analysing a sprint

• Analyse the motion of a sprinter

Retrieve data using a video-motion analysis software

s-t, v-t and a-t graphs

Interpret the meaning of slope and area under the graphs

Average speed

Equations of uniformly accelerated motion

• Accuracy of time measurement

Starting signals, reaction time and its implications

Systematic and random errors

Fitting the best straight line in a graph

Use of advanced technology to reduce errors

• Use the video-motion analysis software to retrieve data for plotting s-t, v-t and a-t graphs

• Analyse the motion of a sprinter with a video-motion analysis software

• Measure distance, time and speed using data-loggers

• Measure the time for a sprinter to complete a 100 metre race using different timing devices, identify any outliers and evaluate the accuracy of the timing devices

• Discuss the difference in reaction time between time-keepers responding to the visual and sound signals given by the starter

• Information search on modern devices for measuring time in international competitions

3.3 Impulse and impact force

• Impulse and impact force: rate of change of momentum

• Impact force and safety measures

Use of polypads in a 60 metre race for stopping

Qualitative treatment of the energy changes in inelastic collisions

• Watch a video of a 60 metre race and discuss the purposes of the installation of polypads at the end of the track

• Carry out an experiment to demonstrate the effects of impact force during collision

• Design a prototype air-cushioned sports


shoes for different kinds of sports 3.4 Efficient movement in sprinting

• The role of skeleton, skeletal muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints in movement

• Differences in the degree of movement between a hinge joint and a ball-and-socket joint

• The lever principle of movement

• The action of opposing muscle pairs in movement

• The relationship between the size and fibre content of muscles and muscle performance

• Examine a model of a human skeleton

• Use models to demonstrate the ranges of movement permitted by a hinge joint and a ball-and-socket joint, and how muscles move appendages

• Information search on how different exercises can improve muscle performance

3.5 Energy production for sprinting

• Energy source in the skeletal muscle

• Role of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)

• Anaerobic respiration

• Lactic acid accumulation and the repayment of oxygen debt

• Information search to find out whether carbohydrate loading is useful for a sprinter

• Study the change in breathing rate during and after a sprint using a breath volume kit or data logger

• Information search on the degree of dependence on anaerobic respiration of athletes performing sports other than sprinting

3.6 Enhancing performance

• Training

• Sports wear

• Using drugs

• Experience the benefits of training with regard to the reduction of reaction time

• Information search on incidents in which athletes were tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and their consequences

• Discuss the controversies of using drugs during training

• Information search for the work of the anti-doping agency

Module highlights

In this module, students have opportunities to:

• recognise that accurately defining a system (e.g. the pair of action and reaction forces between a sprinter’s foot and the starting block) helps us to describe the motion of the component parts


• appreciate that science is based on empirical evidence and that taking measurements is the prime means for analysing a motion

• recognise the existence of limitations of using a particular piece of equipment in making measurements and the importance of choosing an appropriate piece of equipment for making a specific measurement

• recognise that scientists take an average from repeated measurements to give a better estimate of the true value

• recognise that scientists draw up relationships between data collected (e.g. time and displacement) and make generalisations (e.g. mathematical equations relating velocity, acceleration and time) that help us to make predictions in new situations

• realise that scientists view the universe as a vast single system in which the basic rules are the same everywhere. As such, Newton’s Laws are applicable in predicting the motion of objects on Earth as well as that in the universe

• realise that precise experimental design, proper instrumentation and honest reporting are important in the practice of science

• appreciate that the structure of different types of joints is related to the degree of movement each joint allows (form and function)

• realise that the skeleton and muscles in the human body are organised to provide the necessary lever systems for performing a sprint

• develop an awareness that scientific knowledge can be applied in enhancing athletic performance in an appropriate way or in an abused way

• appreciate the contribution of knowledge about motion to the design of products for protection (e.g. air-cushioned sports shoes, safety helmets)


C 4 Chemical Patterns

Overview Introduction

At various times, scientists have tried to construct a systematic way of organising our understanding of elements by seeking patterns in the physical and chemical properties of the different elements. The modern periodic table that evolved is one of the greatest human endeavours. In addition to its practical use as an organiser, the periodic table also helps scientists to explain how the hundred elements can give rise to such a huge variety of chemical compounds. It was upon this platform that further explanations of key patterns in the behaviours of different materials were built, and predictions of chemical behaviour and the development of new materials were made easier.

By the end of Key Stage 3, students have been applying their understanding of particle theory to explain physical phenomena such as floating and sinking, and the expansion and contraction of substances. They know that the atom is the smallest unit of matter and that the atoms of some elements can join together to form compounds under some specific conditions.

They have also encountered a variety of chemical reactions such as burning, neutralisation and the effect of acid rain on building materials.

In this module, students explore the world of matter in a new way. They begin to view basic knowledge of chemistry not only as useful information but also as the product of systematic inquiry. They are guided to live through the intellectual experience of seeking patterns through observations and analysis of evidence, and appreciate how reliable knowledge is generated.

This module also demonstrates how scientists at different times looked for conceptual tools that helped to make sense of the world. The two intertwined historical developments of the periodic table and the atomic model will be used to exemplify how major scientific breakthroughs may be built upon different lines of inquiry complementing and supplementing each other. Lastly, students are challenged to apply their understanding of these fundamental concepts of chemistry to predict and explain the formation of compounds and their properties at the microscopic level.

Focusing Questions

• What led scientists to look for patterns in the properties of elements and construct a systematic way of organising their understanding?


periodic table?

• How could the patterns revealed in the periodic table be used in making predictions?

• Why do the properties of compounds differ so significantly with their elements?

• How are the properties of different substances explained by their structures and bondings?


Module Organisation

Development of the periodic table

Development of the atomic model

Evidence from electrolysis

Octet rule

Bonding &


Explanation for properties

of some



C 4: Chemical Patterns

Students should learn Suggested learning and teaching activities 4.1 Elements in order

• Brief history of different hypotheses on the nature of matter in different cultures

• Alchemy and the study of matter

• Work of Mendeleev and his predecessors on the empirical periodic table

• Search and compare the views of different philosophers on the nature of matter

• Construct periodic tables by arranging elements in increasing melting point, boiling point and atomic mass

• Discuss the kinds of problems scientists tried to solve by developing the periodic table

4.2 The periodic table

• Features of the periodic table

• Trends in physical and chemical properties of elements within Groups I, VII and 0

• Comparison on reactivity between Group I & Group II metals

• Identify trends in the physical properties of elements within Groups I, VII and 0

• Investigate the reactions of some metals with oxygen/air, water and dilute acids

• Compare the reactivity of different halogens

• Experiment to show the bleaching and disinfecting properties of chlorine

• Information search on the practical uses of noble gases

• Predict the chemical properties of unfamiliar elements in a group in the periodic table

• Construct a mind map on patterns and trends identified in the periodic table

4.3 Looking into an atom

• Democritus’s idea of ‘atom’

• Development of the atomic model

• Evidence in support of the atomic model

• Relationships between protons, neutrons and electrons in an atom

• Black box experiment – determining the internal structure of a sealed wooden box

• Search and present information on the development of the atomic model from Dalton’s time to date

• Simulate Rutherford’s alpha-particle scattering experiment




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