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Always in control on the Lego brick road

Legoland is more than your average theme park. It offers a number of themes relating to primary and secondary science, technology and information technology, and Lego UK has optimised these to the advantage of visiting schools.

The park offers two types of education programme - with or without workshops which have been written by teachers and which support the national curriculum.

They help pupils and teachers get to grips with control technology - using computers and software for control of models, machinery, theme-park rides and suchlike.

Of the two workshops based on IT, for key stage 2 "Taking Control" offers experience of basic control technology systems in which children learn to create, store and modify simple commands which can then be used to control a Lego Dacta model before seeing "real life" computer control in action in the park.

"Computer Control" allows key stage 3 pupils to explore basic systems control, using sensors to measure things like temperature, velocity and light, and to see control in action in the park - that is, how the rides work. The overall aim is to introduce pupils to practical computer control then relate the workshop activities to the attractions. Differentiated activities are built in to enable children to work at their own pace.

There are four different types of activity: hands-on, which are 45-minute workshops in which pupils do practical work; body-on - rides which operate on the principles of the work they have just done; eyes-on, where the children, through observation, relate models and attractions to their hands-on experiences; and minds-on, a selection of topic-related activities for teachers.

The workshop area is well equipped - the computer facility alone has two rooms, each with 16 Apple Macintosh computers. Lego Dacta has done its homework well, carefully tailoring the activities and software to meet appropriate national curriculum targets. Key stage 2 teachers facing control technology for the first time will be particularly interested - an opportunity to get their hands dirty, learn more about it and evaluate Lego control systems while the class is being taken by the Legoland tutor.

An excellent teachers' guide covers everything you need to know, including background information, planning guide and children's activity copy masters. There is even an example letter explaining the objectives and activities at the park to send to parents.

The visit is not cheap when you add the cost of a coach on top of the Pounds 6-per-pupil entry fee. However, there are few opportunities, particularly in primary schools, to get such an intense experience with control technology.

For more information contact: Legoland Windsor, tel 01753 626100. Monday to Friday, 10am-6pm, until October 29. Cost: Pounds 6 per person (one free place for every 12 paying pupils). Parking, preliminary visits and pack-lunch facilities are free.

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