As with every subject you take on for junior cycle there are some things you need to know going in. In this article, we will take a look at the different sections or "strands" as they are called in the junior cycle science course.

"Every answer given arouses new questions. The progress of science is matched by an increase in the hidden and mysterious."

Leo Baeck

Before we look into each strand is it important to point out the aim of Junior Cycle Science, put simply the aim of this course is to develop students’ evidence-based understanding of the natural world. To increase their ability to gather and evaluate evidence and to make them more self-aware as learners, which in turn will lead to students becoming more competent and confident in their ability to use and apply science in their everyday lives.

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What Will I Learn About in Junior Cycle Science?

The junior cycle science curriculum covers the basics of all science, there are five strands in junior cycle science:

  1. The Nature of Science
  2. The Physical World
  3. The Chemical World
  4. The Biological World
  5. Earth and Space

Below we are going to explore each of these strands in a little more detail.

chemistry teacher
Junior cycle science topics are taught with everyday relevance so students will learn about the role of Science and how it affects their everyday lives - Image by mauriciodonascimento from Pixabay

The Nature of Science there is no specific context or theory relating to this strand, this part of the course is more about the workings of science the things that will be learnt and demonstrated by students throughout this course. This strand is really the interlinking section for all the other four strands, it is their common link. Each of the above will be thought in-depth over the space of three years, during this time students will learn how to think and act like a scientist when it comes to research, notetaking, evaluation, experiments and giving evidence/scientific proof.

The Physical World this strand of junior cycle science is what will later be called the subject physics for the senior cycle or leaving cert.

This involves the exploration of physical observables, often concerning motion, energy, and electricity. Students gain an understanding of fundamental concepts such as length, time, mass and temperature through appropriate experiments. 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. . They also research sustainability issues that arise from modern physics and technologies, and our generation and consumption of electricity.

Periodic table of elements
Interestingly even though the periodic table of elements may be studied in chemistry a lot of these elements will come up again in biology, specifically if you go on to study medicine. Image by ExplorersInternational from Pixabay

The Chemical World strand in junior cycle science is what will be known as chemistry in the leaving cert.

As students study this strand they will develop understandings of the composition and properties of matter, the changes it undergoes, and the energy involved. By studying the chemical world students will learn to interpret their observations by considering the properties and behaviour of atoms, molecules, and ions. They will also 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 and after studying this strand students will be better able to understand science-related challenges, such as environmental sustainability and the development of new materials, and sources of energy.

The Biological World is the strand in the junior cycle which will turn into the subjects biology for leaving cert.

While studying the biological world strand students will learn about and develop an understanding of the diversity of life, life processes and how life has evolved. Students will explore body systems and how they interact, they will also learn about the basics of human health. Students will carry out experiments and 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.

Earth and Space the aim of this strand is to help students develop a sense of the structure of the universe and some organising principles of astronomy. In this part of the course, students will 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.

 Phases of the moon
8 Phases of the moon in order, new Moon, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full Moon, waning gibbous, third quarter and waning crescent - Image by Darren Danks from Pixabay

Is there an ordinary and higher level for junior cycle science?

The short answer is no. Junior cycle science is taught at a common level, this means that all students receive the same teachings, resources, and assessments. As with most subjects at junior cycle, the science curriculum places a strong emphasis on assessment as part of the learning process.

Most of these assessments are Classroom-Based, meaning that they will take place during the school year. Classroom-Based Assessments offer students the chance to demonstrate their achievements as creators of scientific research reports by selecting a topic or problem to investigate. Classroom-based assessment for practical subjects like science can often be very interesting because you get graded for doing fun things like carrying out experiments or creating projects.

There will be one examination paper at a common level. The exam will be two hours in duration and will take place at the end of third year. During this assessment, students will be required to engage with, demonstrate comprehension of, and provide written responses to stimulus material. The content and format of the final examination will vary from year to year.

AI Technology, Scientific eye
There is so much information you will learn to junior cycle science, some of this information will help you in everyday life whereas other information may inspire you to pursue a career in STEM - Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Advice for Studying Junior Cycle Science:

At any level, science is such an intriguing and vast subject, which means there are infinite sources of material for working on projects and theories evening for helping you study.

Even outside of the classroom your study of Junior Cycle Science will continue!  Your class will go on field trips, do out of class experiments and may even compete in out of school competitions. For studying this subject you can find extra material everywhere, in fact, the number of resources for each strand available online and in libraries are endless.

My advice is simple, enjoy it. Yes, science may be a structured subject in a lot of ways, you will need to rely heavily on your ability to be extremely accurate when it comes to things such as measurements and elements that science is also an art, it is a creative subject. In fact, science creates most of the world we live in right now, one way or another sciences had a hand in everything so enjoy your every lesson path to discovery and hopefully your journey to a lifelong passion.

If science seems like something you'd be interested in learning more about, no matter what age you are, there are hundreds of magazines and newspapers filled with fascinating articles from new medical breakthroughs and universal discoveries to tips for using 'everyday science hacks'. If you're not sure where to look for a magazine I recommend, my personal favourite Latest Science happy reading!

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Maureen

Hey, I'm Maur/Mo, I'm a writer from Ireland. I've written a novel and a lot of poetry and fiction. Currently, I work as a content writer at superprof