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See me, feel me, learn from me

You can liven up classwork with artefacts to illustrate music, history and other lessons, writes Gerald Haigh

Occasionally, you come across an object of desire - something that makes you croon and giggle with delight and yearn to share with your friends. Such a thing is the Card-oc, the latest offering from theOcarina Workshop.

An ocarina is a small, hand-made musical wind instrument with a quiet, mellow tone. The best ones are ceramic, others are plastic. The Card-oc is a 5cm by 4cm ocarina made, incredibly, of cardboard. It comes as a flat, printed sheet: just press it out, glue it together and start playing.

The card is thick and the structure is well engineered so the instrument is quite substantial and it plays well. (I suspect that a wet mouthpiece will be its downfall.) It costs pound;3.90 and comes with an activities book and music scores. Plastic ocarinas cost pound;9.90, which includes a first music book. The lessons to learn from this magical object are endless. As well as demonstrating technology and the science of sound, it shows children that music does not have to come from black boxes with microchips.

Ocarina Workshop is run by David Liggins, who for some years has been preaching the ocarina gospel in courses, concerts and workshops for adults and children around Britain. His operation is a triumphant combination ofmusical excellence and undiluted fun.

For many children, classroom life is largely defined by text on a page or on a screen. Objects such as Card-oc remind us how important for learning and development is the opportunity to handle objects. In religious education, for example, it is one thing to look at a textbook photograph of the Torah scroll, but it is something else entirely to have one in class, to see how it rolls and unrolls, and to begin to feel something of its importance in Jewish faith and history.

If you want a Torah you can buy a beautiful, authentic one in a case for pound;18.75 from Articles of Faith. This company was founded in 1983 by former religious education teacher and adviser Christine Howard. She saw how important it was, in a multi-faith approach to RE, to have access to authentic artefacts, and to good advice about their meaning and use.

The Articles of Faith catalogue is filled with treasures from every significant world faith. They are available individually but many are sold in groups. The Jewish Collection, for example, has seven items including a hanukkee'a (the nine-branched candlestick) and a seder plate used during Passover. It is very popular and excellent value at pound;50. Becoming increasingly popular are the objects for younger children, such as a beautiful "soft book" about the five pillars of Islam (pound;19.95).

Christine Howard has the insight and experience to know what will be useful in the classroom and the knowledge to provide the support (in the form of books, videos and in-service courses) that is essential if religious objects are to be presented properly and with respect.

Articles of Faith has now added a history catalogue, Articles of Antiquity, with numerous objects and posters from a range of periodsrelevant to the history curriculum.

Young children can learn a lot from handling dolls and puppets. The right kind of puppets can challenge stereotypes, stimulate language work and promote creative play. Particularly suitable are the families of five hand puppets from Learning Resources - there is an Asian family and white, black, Oriental and Hispanic families. There are also two sets of five "multicultural career puppets" dressed in work clothes and which come in a puppet theatre playhouse. These are available through most leading educational suppliers, costing pound;15.95 a family and pound;19.95 a set of career puppets (excluding VAT).

Teachers who want to see a larger range of artefacts than they can provide in school may be interested in Peter Cornwell's History Off The Page programme. Peter is a former primary head teacher who has many historical objects which he takes into schools and presents in a range of ways.

For lessons on the Victorian era, for example, he has such things as a magic lantern and a set of suitcases, each one containing objects - letters, postcards, personal possessions - representative of the person to whom the suitcase might belong. "If it's Tudors, we have a banquet with facsimile goblets and jugs and plates." He works with two or three classes at a time, charging pound;250 a day.

Technology Teaching Systems, as the name implies, made its name in science and technology resources but has branched out to bring a similarly innovative and high quality approach to religious education and history resources through Religion in Education and History in Education.

The latter's TESBESA Equipment Award-winning kit Writing Through Time (pound;57.95), containing quills, wax tablets and even papyrus, is widely known. Another high-quality package is Light Through Time (pound;45), history and science in a collection that includes candles, ancient-style oil lamps and fibre-optics.

The history catalogue also features artefacts from more recent times: hula hoops are pound;7.20 for six. A Swinging Sixties shoulder bag is pound;6.80 and - would you believe? - an orange inflatable chair pound;52.95, which, it is claimed, will "inspire children to learn about the materials and manufacturing techniques of the Sixties". It would go down well in a book corner.

* Learning Resources. Tel: 01553 762276 for stockists. Stand E48 * Ocarina Workshop, PO Box 56, Kettering, Northamptonshire NN15 5LX. Tel: 01536 485963. Stand H89 * Articles of Faith, Resource House, Kay Street, Bury BL9 6BU. Tel: 0161-763 6232. Prices ex VAT. Stand PV236 * Peter Cornwell, The Old School, Hardwick, Cambridge CB3 7QS. Tel: 01954 212281. Stand PV116 * TTS, Unit 7, Monk Road, Alfreton, Derbyshire DE55 7RL. Freephone: 0800 318686. Prices exclude VAT

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