Investigate at School - Primary

Transform your classroom into an investigation centre! Collect your own objects or discover real Museum specimens online. Develop and use scientific skills by making observations, asking questions and looking for evidence.

These resources support four stages of a classroom scientific investigation as inspired by the work of our Museum scientists. The resources are flexible and can be tailored in many ways to suit your class.

1. Getting started
2. Select a specimen
3. Investigate
4. Share


Here are some top tips from Museum staff on how to learn more from your specimen.

Investigate at School: Top tips

  • Transcript

    Top tip one: Don’t worry about having all of the answers.

    It might surprise you to know, but scientists don’t always have all of the answers. And often we don’t have all of the answers to our own questions either.

    But by investigating, you’ll almost always find something interesting or important that you might not have noticed if you hadn’t looked closely.

    And try not to worry too much about having the answers straight away, maybe you’ll find your own unexpected discovery along the way.


    Top tip two: Make observations.

    My top tip is to look, listen, feel and even smell and make what we call observations.


    Top tip three: Think about what you already know and what you would like to find out.

    It’s often useful to take a moment to stop and think about what you already know about a specimen.

    For example, I know this is a banana. I know how it looks and how it smells.

    But then take a moment to think about what you don’t know.

    For example, I am unsure about this part of the banana. Why is that bit brown when most of it is yellow?


    Top tip four: Ask questions.

    My favourite part of investigating is asking questions.

    Is it from a plant? Does it get bigger than this? Why is it so bendy?

    Remember, you might not find all the answers, but let your curiosity flow.


    Top tip five: Come up with ideas and look for evidence.

    Once I have a question that I really want to find out more about, I think of what the answers might be and come up with ideas.

    And once you have those ideas it is so much fun to go back and look for clues or evidence and see if any of those ideas are important.


    Top tip six: Record your investigation.

    For me, I love recording my investigations so that I can remember some of the things I noticed.

    I draw diagrams, take measurements, write notes and take pictures.


    Top tip seven: Share your discoveries.

    My favourite part of an investigation is talking to others and that’s because it’s a very important part of scientists’ jobs

    to share their ideas and their discoveries.

    I like to talk to my team mates too and find out what they think. Sometimes they could give me some brand-new ideas.

    And if you feel like you need to check in with experts you can read books, or you can use the internet too.


    What will you discover?

    Share with us @NHM_Learn

Investigation toolkit

Here are some questions that might be useful to ask your pupils to prompt investigations:

  • Why did you choose this specimen?
  • What can you see?
  • How does it and feel?
  • What patterns, colours, and textures do you notice?
  • Have you seen anything like this before?
  • What questions do you have about your specimen?
  • Can you see any clues that might help you to answer your question?
  • Does your partner agree with your idea to answer your question?
  • Does your partner have any other ideas what the answer could be?

Additional suggestions for investigating digital specimens:

  • Encourage pupils to look for hidden details.
  • Rotate in all directions, zoom in and out as far as it will allow and turn it upside down.
  • Focus on shapes and patterns.
  • Compare different specimens.


Equipment is not essential for this activity. However, there are some items that might be useful to enhance investigations, if available:

  • Pencil and paper for recording ideas and drawing diagrams.
  • Simple weighing scales and rulers can be used to take measurements.
  • Magnets and torches can be useful to find out more.
  • Crayons can be used to make rubbings of suitable specimens.
  • Magnifying equipment can be great for looking closer.

Recording investigations

Pupils can use the Museum recording sheet to record their observations and ideas. Alternatively, they can create a video or audio recording documenting their investigation.

🡸    Previous


🡺    Next


Related content

Learning resources

We have a range of resources to support learning around natural history themes. For ages 5-14.