1.1 Characteristic of the idea

Harlen (Harlen, ed., 2015) characterizes this idea as follows: All objects have an effect on other objects without being in contact with them. In some cases the effect travels out from the source to the receiver in the form of radiation (e.g. visible light). In other cases action at a distance is explained in terms of the existence of a field of influence between objects, such as a magnetic, electric or gravitational field. Gravity is a universal force of attraction between all objects however large or small, keeping the planets in orbit round the Sun and causing terrestrial objects to fall towards the center of the Earth.

1.2 Suggested level of preconception development for primary level

In the younger school age (7-11 year olds), which corresponds to primary science education, (according to Harlen‘s concept of developing Big Ideas of Science), pupils should already understand that objects can have an effect on other objects even when they are not in contact with them. For instance, light, both from close sources such as light bulbs or flames and from the Sun and other stars very long distances away, is seen because it affects the objects it reaches, including our eyes. These sources give out light, which travels from them in various directions and is detected when it reaches and enters our eyes. Objects that are seen either give out or reflect light that human eyes can detect. Sound comes from things that vibrate and can be detected at a distance from the source because the air or other material around is made to vibrate. Sounds are heard when the vibrations in the air enter our ears. Other examples of objects affecting other objects without touching them are the interactions between magnets or electric charges and the effect of gravity that makes things falls to the Earth.