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Get in step with natural forces

Turn on the music, kick up your feet and start applying accelerated learning principles to primary science. Katrina Tweedie reports

As the P5 class performed simple dance routines to catchy rap songs blasting from a stereo system in the gym, none of the nine-year-olds realised they were in the middle of an hour-long science lesson.

Digital and movie images of other youngsters dancing, projected on to a white wall, were a useful reference point when any of the pupils lost their steps, but none was aware this was a lesson about the body.

The Science-Physical CD-Rom was developed after a project in a London primary showed how well pupils responded to physical and visual approaches to learning. The producers, YDance, the national agency for the development of dance for children in Scotlan, and The Place, the international centre for dance in central London, describe the CD-Rom as a stimulus for an exciting and effective style of teaching.

It includes interactive games, rap and other music, video clips and 12 detailed lesson plans on topics such as light and shadow, magnets - attraction and repulsion - and springs. The content is tailored to the key stage 2 (P3-P7) curriculum but the approach is equally applicable to other age groups.

Each lesson includes an overview of what is to be covered, the aims of the activity, an exploration and discovery phase and review and recall activities.

The children at Rhu Primary, in Helensburgh, were asked to discuss which body joints they moved in a simple dance sequence, before devising their own routines using a set number of joints, only ankles, hips and shoulders, for instance.

"The activity completely engaged the children, who had to think carefully about their bodies and how they were moving," says Fiona Hughes, their teacher. "It will probably have more impact than a traditional lesson."

Other dances are used to understand the heart beat and lungs.

The CD-Rom, as well as offering a fresh approach to teaching science in primary schools, also encourages children to get active through dance.

"Science and dance are two of the most difficult subjects to teach due to the specialist training involved," says Andy Howatt, YDance's artistic director. "As an educational tool, Science-Physical makes it possible to combine the two in fun and innovative ways."

Yvonne Young, the YDance instructor who led the workshop at Rhu Primary, says: "It's an add-on to both science and PE, and makes it more exciting for the children. I would rather have been taught science in a gym hall.

"In the most part, the teachers are willing to participate and keen to continue and develop the experience. The CD-Rom gives them hints and tips and builds their skills and confidence to go and do it themselves."

Anne Milne, the headteacher, is keen to use interactive learning devices to complement the curriculum. "We are hoping the old adage 'If you do something you'll remember it' works."

'Science-Physical' CD-Rom, pound;50, has a supporting training programme. Contact YDance, tel 0141 552 7712

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