From birth to death

20th December 1996 at 00:00
Living Library: Life Cycles VHS videocassette and CD-Rom for Windows Multimedia PC or Apple Macintosh. Full package Pounds 47.50. Video, Pounds 15; CD, Pounds 38. LDA . Tel: 01945 463441.

This is an excellent marriage of video and CD-Rom. The video is very good whole-class stimulation for discussion and the CD-Rom offers a valuable research tool for a small group or an individual learner. Many of the sequences on the video are accessible on the disc along with a large library of still images on the life cycles theme, a database and glossary of key words and a bank of suggestions for activities.

This package is directed towards key stage 2, attainment target 2 of the science curriculum, "Life processes and living things". The key purpose of the video is not to instruct but to stimulate; there is a minimum of explanatory commentary but the images excite and, because they last little more than 20 minutes, can be revisited for critical exploration.

Life Cycles identifies the stages of birth, growth, maturity and death, and encourages a wide perspective by looking at mammals, insects, birds, plants and amphibians. Part of a Living Library series, it is well produced. The teacher's guide has some good pointers for introducing it into the pertinent topic with key questions and suggested teaching strategies.

The CD-Rom element allows one to click on a species or a stage or a whole life story. There are datacards which give basic information about each particular species or stage, and graphs and diagrams of how long they live, what number of young they have, and so on. There are appropriate questions and activities on most screens. I would have liked to have seen the data available for inclusion into a standard database or spreadsheet for some extension activities, but this is only a small niggle.

What impressed me was the linking of video and CD-Rom in such an explicit way, and what this could mean for the future. In terms of extending pupils' understanding, of investigating the stages of the life cycles in living things or of supporting individual exploration, this is a worthwhile package. More of this country's nature film archives could be used in a similarly sensitive way.

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