It's good to report that the health of primary science is evident, even if the constant change is allowing only the most flexible providers of resources to take advantage of the new niches that are appearing as the curriculum evolves. So what could be found that was new at the Association for Science Education's after-Christmas meeting in Lancaster?
The Wellcome Foundation had invested in a large stand with the title of "Genetics Now". Although this exhibit was generally not dealing with the primary age, the theme of health and environment ran through many of the other lectures and materials on view for the first time.
The National Osteoporosis Society has Healthy Bones, a pack for key stages 1 and 2 at Pounds 8 including pp, covering food, exercise, growth, teeth and skeletons. It contains some very useful material from an unusual perspective and interesting activities for children to complete at home.
The pack could be used with some new charts specially designed for young children on the Skeletal system and muscular system from Educational and Scientific Products and transform a topic on "Bones". These laminated charts (Pounds 7.40 each) are quite unlike the revoltingly-fascinating anatomical variety the children shown smile and don't look dissected. The common names are used for the bones.
The similarly child-sized Body Parts Apron with its colour-coded "organs" is great fun for learning about the positions of the respiratory, urinary and digestive systems. Each organ can be stuck with velcro in the right position to the apron worn by a child and the parts related to each other. Marketed by TTS at Pounds 36, this could be used by an inventive teacher in all sorts of ways.
From Salix Education there is another unusual new resource focusing on health called UV The Sun Project. This contains 16 worksheets of practical activities for primary around the theme of protection from the sun. It could provide an important mini-project to slot into the summer days when children are outside during the midday break, when they are most vulnerable. It is sensitively and carefully produced at Pounds 8.50 including pp.
There were some other very impressive new charts. Earth at Night from MJP Geopacks at Pounds 16.95 plus Pounds 3.95 pp is a wonderful satellite image (58x86cm), laminated to last, and would prompt lots of questions on energy and light from cities visible in space. This firm also supplies a large range of other satellite image maps of the British Isles and the world at similar reasonable prices. Notes to accompany the charts are available.
Free from the Science Museum in London is a unique set of posters called Assorted Images to promote discussion of the contrasting images of objects presented on a theme such as flight, with prompt questions printed on the back. There are other free resources for primary schools to go with visits to the Food and History of Medicine galleries. Look out for the opening of new facilities in September to make school visits to the museum as easy as possible, including a new lunch area.
Other thematic resource material from the Chemical Industries Association and University of York for 8 to 11-year-olds takes "mixtures" and has a set of investigations into a range of household-cleaning materials, with very good background notes. Kitchen Concoctions costs Pounds 6. Other materials to support chemical understanding and encourage the planning of investigations through a set of six activity worksheets are published this year by the same group as part of a cross-curricular pack entitled A Pinch of Salt at Pounds 7.50 in a smart binder.
Primary pupils are enticed into exciting hands-on investigations to discover the culprit who smashed the greenhouse in The Young Detectives, published by BNFL (British Nuclear Fuels Ltd) and the Royal Microscopical Society. This pack is very good value for excellent materials at Pounds 14.95 plus VAT. The pack introduces the mystery with a 20-minute video and pupils can then find out more background information, using an Acorn computer program, and follow it up with photocopiable investigations suggested in the teachers' handbook. With the kit is a hand lens and microscope images, a ruler and a special offer on a Society-approved microscope.
Specially-designed science materials for infants, The SHIPS Project: Infants Pack (school-home investigations in primary science), have been published by the ASE in a single booklet at Pounds 7.95. Here are 18 lovely activities at just the right level for children to do at school or take home with simple support information. The rest of the SHIPS project materials and the wide range of materials that the ASE produces, including a revision of four booklets on The Senses at Pounds 1.95 each, are in the Primary and Secondary Publications brochure, available on request from ASE Booksales.
Investigative environmental work outside really needs good identification guides that both teachers and children can use successfully. New from the Field Studies Council to help teachers identify common grasses and lichens are attractive and accurate, full-colour laminated identification cards which can be taken outside (Grasses Identification Chart and Lichens and Air Pollution Chart). For pupils, there is a trail key for minibeasts found in leaflitter, with notes on the food chains (Soil and Litter Minibeasts). These cards are Pounds 1.75 each and let's hope that the Field Studies Council will be encouraged to produce more in this series. Its new pack, Investigating Trees and Timber: A Practical Guide, is designed for much older children, but has three wonderful picture posters showing the types of woodland in Britain, France and Ghana. Any teacher organising a project on trees would find a mine of useful background information in this pack and the posters could easily be used at primary level. Again this is good value at Pounds 9.25 for the whole pack.
Bringing the environment into the classroom so that children have direct experience of living things is encouraged by the Butterfly Garden School Kit. It will arrive at school with five ready-hatched tiny caterpillars and food for the Painted Lady butterfly. Insect Lore, the producers, guarantee three butterflies will emerge in the card butterfly house included in the kit. This costs Pounds 16.13 plus VAT and pp or Pounds 31.45 for a class set of 30, so each pupil has one caterpillar in a small pot.
Bedfordshire Science Team publications will have its fully-revised Science Scheme of Work for key stages 1 and 2 available by July. This is low-cost, no-frills material: key stage 1 is Pounds 20, Years 34 Pounds 20, Years 56 Pounds 20. The new range of programmes on BBC Primary Science, with its comprehensive multimedia coverage and support materials for pupils, is also well up to date.