The nature of science: Concept Cartoons


The nature of science resources try to give students an awareness of science as a changing body of knowledge. This resource uses concept cartoons to help students engage with difficult scientific concepts.



Concept Cartoons are cartoon-style drawings that put forward a range of viewpoints about a particular situation. Concept Cartoons are normally used to promote a group discussion.

We have partnered with Millgate House Education to provide a selection of the Concept Cartoons on Learn Chemistry. To learn more about Concept Cartoons and how they are used, visit:

If you teach primary science, click the headings below to find out how to use this resource:

Skill development

Children will develop their working scientifically skills by:

  • Drawing conclusions and raising further questions that could be investigated, based on their data and observations.
  • Using evidence from a range of sources to support and refute ideas.
  • Asking their own questions about scientific phenomena.
  • Selecting and planning the most appropriate ways to answer science questions, recognising and controlling variables where necessary, including:
    • Carrying out comparative and fair tests.

Learning outcomes

Children will:

  • Explain that some changes result in the formation of new materials, and that this kind of change is not usually reversible.
  • Observe that some materials change state when they are heated or cooled, and measure or research the temperature at which this happens in degrees Celsius.

Concepts supported

Children will learn:

  • The key concepts in the chemistry of a burning candle, that the candle wax melts, and the liquid wax is drawn up the wick; at which point the liquid wax vaporises and burns.
    • Proof that this is the case can be demonstrated by: dipping a burnt-out match in melted wax and putting it in a flame; bringing a lit match towards, but not touching, a recently extinguished wick; and holding an upturned jar over the candle with a gap at the bottom.

Suggested activity use

You could use this as an opportunity for a whole-class discussion at the start or end of a lesson, showing it on an interactive whiteboard or handing out paper copies.

You could also focus on a small group if you want to assess reasoning skills.

The concept cartoon provides excellent opportunities for children to carry out experiments to test their ideas.

Practical considerations

The ideas behind the Brewing Up activity may be difficult for primary children to grasp as some understanding of by-products from chemical reactions is required. This is because children will need to realise that the water isn’t just condensed water vapour from the air, which they will have previously learnt about when looking at evaporation and condensation.

You may want to read about the chemistry behind a candle burning so you have a clear understanding to explain to children.

Allowing small groups of children to watch a candle burn provides an opportunity for them to observe the process for themselves. They can then attempt to explain the process in terms of reversible and irreversible changes.

It is important for children to understand that this exercise isn’t designed to test ’right or wrong’ answers, but more their thought process and their use of evidence to back up their ideas. You may want to prepare explanations for each of the answers given on the concept cartoon so that children can see why they might not be correct.