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Snails race for science

In the spring term of 2001 it was decided that to develop the teaching and learning of science throughout our school we would design and build an environmental area on an open piece of grassland near a small coppice area in the school grounds. As well as integrating the use of the area into our planning across the curriculum, I am now in my third term of running a very popular after-school Environmental Science Club. About 25 children from all years attend. We do numerous activities at the club, and recently I organised a snail race. We designed a track with leaves around it to tempt the snails, then collected some from the garden and put different coloured stickers on them. As well as having a lot of fun, the children observed how snails moved and ate, and learned about their habitats while searching for them.

We also made a scarecrow from wood, clothes, straw and patches of material.

This gave us an opportunity to talk about its purpose and, as we were coming up to harvest time, to discuss what harvest is all about.

Occasionally we have environmental quizzes with questions like:What do slugs eat? What does "protected" mean? We have "scavenger" hunts where children are given a list of things to find, for example, something brown, something sharp. For one session children were asked to bring in a week's rubbish and sort it into items that could be recycled, decomposable material and things that wouldn't decompose. They got very messy, which they enjoyed!

We discussed issues such as sustainability and landfill. All the stuff that was decomposable was put on the compost heap and we will go back soon and see how it has decomposed.

Emma Kirk

Science co-ordinator, Wallace Fields Junior School, Epsom

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