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Sackfuls of experiments

Parents and pupils are drawn to this like magnets, says Carolyn O'Grady

I made this shadow puppet", "We found that this piece of wood floated and that stone didn't", "My mum really enjoyed doing electricity."

These are just some of the excited comments you can overhear from Year 1 pupils at Grafton Infants School in Stoke-on-Trent.

The children are discussing their science sacks, a home-school links project started three years ago by Vicky Reeves, the school's science co-ordinator. Vicky had been talking with the headteacher about raising the status of science in the school, "and between us we came up with the idea of science sacks. The school already had maths packs and story packs which the children took home. So why not science sacks?"

Vicky road-tested the project with six children from her science club and found parents to be "really positive - they were as excited as the children and wanted some more," she says.

Money to make the packs came with an Education Extra Award of about pound;100 and the school contributed about another pound;150. "It took ages to make them," Vicky says. "There was a lot of making to do, and writing the parent's notes took time; I got whoever I could to help me." This included a parent helper and classroom assistants.

There are 30 packs in all, containing a few objects (torches or magnets) and notes on laminated card with simple instructions on how to do the activity and brief background notes on scientific principles. Every year, parents of new Year 1 pupils receive a letter asking them if they are prepared to have the sacks, and whether they agree to pay for losses and breakages. Only one or two have so far declined to take part, and losses and breakages have been minimal, although one pack did get lost when the family moved house.

However, three years on, objects and materials are starting to show the signs of wear and tear and are having to be replaced. A parent helper comes in regularly to check packs, replace items and give them out. "The sacks have raised parents' awareness and the status of science and have also assisted in improving parents' knowledge of science," says Vicky.


All the packs contains parents' notes on laminated card. Below are several sack ideas.


* A bar magnet with a plastic covering.

* Metal discs (these were specially-made, are about the size of a 2p piece, and bear the names of the metal they are made of).Children find out which metals are attracted to the magnet and which are not and go round their home to find metals and see if they are attracted to the magnet.


* A battery.

* A holder for the battery.

* Two light bulbs.

* Two bulb holders.

* Wires.

* Crocodile clips.

* A safety card.

Parents are encouraged to make a circuit with their child (a diagram is included in the instructions and as an extension activity they can add the second bulb) and to talk about electricity. They also look at the safety card which illustrates dangers in the home, for example overloaded sockets, a small child playing by a plug, and go round the house to identify these dangers.

Shadows * A torch.

* A piece of white card.

* Lollipop sticks.Children and parents work together to show the shadows of objects, for example a cup, by shining a torch on it, and then they go on to make their own shadow puppets.

Recording the weather * A plastic thermometer.

* A sheet to record the weather before and after school. Parents and children are encouraged to discuss and record changes in the weather, in particular temperature changes.

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