The Big Ideas of Science

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The Big Ideas of Science are a set of cross-cutting concepts that to their total describe our world. They act as the knowledge structure which teachers and students can use as a reference point to establish underlying connections between facts and phenomena coming from different science disciplines (whose connection may not be necessarily apparent to students at first), between each other and to everyday life.

 Intermediate Ideas of Science Small ideas of Science 

3D Map of science Ideas From the big to the small Ideas of Science - mind map


Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only be transformed from one form to another. The transformation of energy can lead to a change in state or motion. Energy can also be converted to mass and vice versa.


Version for ages 12 to 15

When energy is transformed from one form to another, its total amount remains constant. The transfer of energy from one body (or system) to another or a change in its form can cause a change in state or motion. The amount of energy transferred or transformed during a motion is called work.


Version for ages 9 to 12

Energy is what makes every change possible throughout the universe. Energy can have many faces (forms) and it can be transferred from one body or system to another. However, its total amount remains constant. It cannot be created or destroyed.

 There are four fundamental interactions/forces in nature: gravitation, electromagnetism, strong nuclear and weak nuclear forces. All phenomena are due to the presence of one or more of these interactions. Forces act on objects and can act at a distance through respective physical field, causing a change in motion or in the state of matte


Version for ages 12 to 15

Gravity and electromagnetism are the two forces whose effects are most evident to us. These two forces are responsible for the majority of motions in the universe. The motion of an object depends on how a force acts on it.


Version for ages 9 to 12

When a force acts on an object it can change its shape or its state of motion. We cannot see forces but we can understand them by their effects. An object can have an effect on another through a force, either by being in contact with it or from a distance. There is a limited number of forces in our universe.

Earth is a very small part of the universe.  The Universe is comprised of billions of galaxies, each of which contains billions of stars (suns) and other celestial objects. Earth is a small part of the solar system with the Sun in its centre, which in turn is a very small part of the Universe.


Version for ages 12 to 15

The Sun is the star of our solar system and it is around 1a0 times larger in diameter than Earth. The closest star to the sun is a bit over 4 light year away. Our galaxy has billions of stars, some smaller and some bigger than our Sun. There are billions of galaxies in our universe which besides stars, include many other types of objects as well.


Version for ages 9 to 12

Earth and the other planets orbit around the Sun. The Sun is the star of our solar system and it is around 100 times larger than Earth. There are billions of stars like our Sun in the universe.

All matter in the Universe is made of very small particles. They are in constant motion and in constant interaction with each other. Elementary particles form atoms and atoms form molecules. There is a finite number of types of atoms in the universe which are the elements in the periodic table. 


Version for ages 12 to 15

There is a finite number of elements and they are all presented in the periodic table. Atoms and molecules form new bonds through chemical reactions. Molecules that are based on carbon are fundamental for life and they are called organic molecules.


Version for ages 9 to 12

All matter in the universe is made of the same elementary particles called quarks and electrons. Quarks make up protons and neutrons. Protons, neutrons and electrons combine in different ways and they make different atoms (elements). Atoms make up molecules. All matter is in constant motion and depending on the intensity of the motion it can be found in three different states: solid, liquid or gas.

At very small scales, our world is subjected to the laws of quantum mechanics. All matter and radiation exhibit both wave and particle properties.  We cannot simultaneously know the position and the momentum of a particle.


Version for ages 12 to 15

Light (electromagnetic radiation) behaves like a wave but it can also behave as a stream of particles carrying packs of energy called quanta. At small scales particles can also act as quantum waves.


Version for ages 9 to 12

Quantum mechanics studies what happens inside atoms. Matter in the microcosm behaves different than in the macrocosm.


Evolution is the basis for both the unity of life and the biodiversity of organisms (living and extinct). Organisms pass on genetic information from one generation to another. 


Version for ages 12 to 15

All organisms evolved from a common ancestor. Through mutations of DNA, new traits can appear in organisms. The organisms that are best adapted to their environment survive and pass on their traits to their descendants.


Version for ages 9 to 12

Organisms change over generations and develop traits and skills that help them survive. All the genetic information of an organism is stored in the DNA, which is found in the nucleus of each cell. The DNA is responsible for passing genetic information from one generation to another (inheritance).


Cells are the fundamental unit of life. They require a supply of energy and materials. All life forms on our planet are based on this common key component.


Version for ages 12 to 15

The cell is the basic structural and functional unit of life. It can reproduce, breath, develop and produce a variation of products. Plants and animals are made of cells that form organs and systems. Cells require energy which they find through the processing of organic and/or inorganic matter.


Version for ages 9 to 12

Every living organism is made of cells. There are many types of cells which have different purposes.

Earth is a system of systems which influences and is influenced by life on the planet. The processes occurring within this system influence the evolution of our planet and shape its climate and surface. The solar system also influences Earth and life on the planet.


Version for ages 12 to 15

Earth is ever-changing due to the constant flow of energy and radiation from the Sun, as well as due to the unchanging processes on Earth.  All living organisms affect the Earth and are affected by it.


Version for ages 9 to 12

Our Earth, its climate and surface are influenced by natural phenomena and all living organisms. All living organisms are affected by everything that happens on our planet.

Download the printable PLATON "Big Ideas of Science" Cards 


PLATON is a two-year European project launched on September 2016. It aspires to provide teachers and school communities with a coherent teachers’ training framework which will update their current teaching practices. More particularly, PLATON aims to offer an open and innovative training framework to teachers of primary and secondary education which will focus on:

  • Promoting student-centred teaching approaches;
  • Promoting a holistic interdisciplinary approach;
  • Support the use of online educational tools;
  • Support the meaningful collaboration between teachers of the same school.



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