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Taking an active interest in life

SCIENCE AT WORK YEAR 9. Changes in Life. Life Processes. Metals and non-metals. Forces at work. Electricity at work. Looking into space. Pupil books. Pounds 3.25 and Pounds 3.75 each. Teacher's Guide 3. Pounds 10.75. Copymasters 3 Pounds 27 + VAT. Longman, By George Snap and David Rowlands.

Christine Harrison assesses some flexible materials for lower secondary pupils. This set of six pupil's books, teacher's guide and copymaster pack follows on from the recently published Year 7 and 8 materials. The topics covered are Changes in Life, Life Processes, Metals and non-metals, Forces at work, Electricity at work and Looking into space.

The organisation of material remains the same, with a modular format and pupil's books that provide background information and step-by-step practical activities. The full-colour pupil books are attractive and inviting. The use of cartoon characters and stories adds to this effect and provides a novel approach to encourage pupils to interact with the text.

There is also a greater emphasis on Directed Activities Related to Text (DART) in some of the pupil's books, which will help teachers make a broader assessment of pupil understanding during learning.

While the course claims it has the "flexibility to suit the needs of any school", the materials are geared towards lower to average ability pupils and meet one of the main aims of the resource: "to develop pupils' interest and enjoyment in science". No mean feat in today's schools.

As with most modular approaches, there is variation in the different topics and some of this is undoubtedly influenced by the nature of the science studied. However, it is a pity that Electricity at Work has the most traditional approach in the pupil's book, while the more exciting and interesting aspects of this topic are left to the extension material in the copymaster packs.

Forces at Work presents the physics in context in the pupil's book and is therefore likely to create interest for a wider range of pupils. Life Processes uses a variety of approaches to enable pupils to understand how the sensations in their bodies relate to the organ systems and metabolic activity occurring inside. Both Looking into Space and Metals and Non-metals present a straightforward interpretation of their topic area.

Changes in life is, for me, the most confusing of the pupils' books. The summary, at the end of the book, claims that pupils should have found out how plants make proteins, but I couldn't find this information in the materials. While there are practicals on photosynthesis and investigations relating to plant growth and fertilisers, nowhere is this drawn together and explained.

Similarly, while there are numerous references to plant respiration, the author doesn't challenge pupils' misconceptions about plant respiration and nutrition or demonstrate plant respiration practically.

The copymaster packs broaden and extend the material in the pupil's books and provide support sheets for planning and reporting investigative work and possibilities for project work. This provides a more flexible resource for the teacher, enabling parts of the course to be approached at different levels.

While these materials will provide a useful resource for many science departments, teachers should carefully consider the detail, approach and scope of each pupil's book to ensure that they match their students' needs and their own teaching style.

Christine Harrison is a lecturer in science education at King's College, London

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