All the fun of the fountains

9th June 1995 at 01:00
WATER MADE CLEARER. Age group: 5-11. Free to schools in Northumbrian Water Area, Pounds 45 to others. Northumbrian Water, Abbey Road, Pit Me, Durham DH1 5FJ. Frank Regester examines a teaching pack which answers a cascade of water queries, from sewage to syphons.

It is unusual to feel almost unqualified enthusiasm for a set of curriculum materials, but that is the feeling evoked by this teaching pack.

Water is a topic that comes into science and geography in key stages 1 and 2 of the national curriculum, and the authors have put together a wide range of activities for teachers to use with children from 5 to 11. They deal with the Water Cycle, Water Supply, Rivers and Environmental Issues. The activities offer lots of opportunities for first-hand experience and practical learning as well as suggesting extensions for the more academic.

The pack contains a number of components. The teacher's booklet has enough background information on rivers, ponds, lakes, sewage disposal etc to enable teachers to answer most of the questions children are likely to throw at them. It is thoroughly cross-referenced and includes activities in outline for teachers to develop.

The second section consists of 26 workcards for photocopying. These are attractive and well planned, covering work in science, geography, technology and English. Some are differentiated and the rest contain the minimum of text, so that they are accessible to most children. The activities themselves are not particularly original, but reflect sound practice, with experiments on evaporation and using syphons to take water uphill.

The third section contains a variety of teachers' resources. An audio tape of a range of watery noises, such as rain falling and toilets flushing, could be used in a number of listening activities and has accompanying photocards. The tape also contains two appealing stories for younger children about Freddie the Frog who lives in a polluted pond and How the Sea became Salty. There is an acetate composite showing the development of water supply features around a settlement, a jigsaw game based on the water treatment cycle and an environmental role-play activity about a pond in a disused water-filled quarry. This is backed up by some excellent classroom materials. The pack also contains a wallchart on the Water Cycle, which comes with adhesive arrows for children to practise the cycle.

What stands out about the pack, apart from its high-quality production, is that it is immediately evident how it could be used with any group of children within the age range. This is probably because of the ideal way it was produced, with Northumbrian Water putting up the financial resources industry can offer, enabling a group of teachers from all parts of the 5 to 11 range to develop the activities and try them in schools, then entrusting the production to professional designers.

Cynical readers will ask what Northumbrian Water gets out of the deal. There is little overt publicity in the pack; just a few logos. There is a lingering suggestion of the water companies always being there to sort out any mess in the water environment, which does not bear rigorous scrutiny. But if children learn where to go with complaints, all the better.

At Pounds 45 for schools not in the Northumbrian Water area, the pack may seem expensive but it represents very good value for money. Apart from the company's logo, the materials can be used anywhere in the country. I intend to get maximum value out of it in my school.

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