Trevor Patterson taps a source of practical primary ideas. The national curriculum states that children should develop their design and technology capability through activities in which they investigate, disassemble and evaluate simple products. With this in mind Technology Teaching System has produced three products, each familiar to children, which aim to satisfy this need.
The TTS-Clarks Shoe Pack includes a complete set of components used in shoe production. The pack is stylish, well put together and offers good value. It includes a finished shoe and one disassembled into its different parts right down to the thread and eyelets. Children have the opportunity to gain first-hand familiarity with all the parts and materials which go to make up a completed shoe and as a result can investigate and evaluate its function.
Included in the pack is a hardback book for children called New Shoes in which author Kate Petty takes the reader through the complete design process in shoe production. The lively text is complemented by colour photographs which show why and how a product is made in the design and make process.
A teacher's booklet aimed at key stages 1 and 2 explains how all the shoe components fit together to make the finished item. It includes various questions to get children to analyse the product and also has a section in which the pack can be used in cross-curricular links. This seemed to be the weakest part of the pack as I was left still asking the question "how do I use this pack properly?" More advice and help would have been appreciated.
The See Through Torch pack includes four small transparent plastic torches. Children can see clearly how a switch completes and breaks a circuit. Although these clearly show how the product works and should be an ideal way for children to evaluate a product, they seem a little too small for children to disassemble and put together and I can imagine an eight-year-old breaking some part of it.
The Bicycle Bell offers teachers a simple yet useful product that children can relate to and shows how the mechanism is used to make the bell ring. It is pleasing that TTS addresses the issue of investigation, disassembly and evaluation (IDEAS). Many primary teachers still do not feel confident in teaching the relatively new subject of design technology and find IDEAS in particular an unfamiliar one. These products go some way to help. All three, however, could benefit from a guide for teachers on how to use the product to its full potential.
We teachers are simple folk! We actually like having ideas and teaching points put forward. It would be a shame for such well produced products to be ignored by teachers simply because they have neither the confidence nor the knowledge to use them effectively.
Trevor Patterson is DT co-ordinator at Churwell Primary School, Leeds