Cool and confident;Reviews;General;Learning to teach;Primary

24th April 1998 at 01:00
PRIMARY SCIENCE CLASSROOM ORGANISATION 20-MINUTE VIDEO. SCICentre pound;6. The Science PAL Resource Pack. Using CD Roms in Primary Science booklet. Data Logging in the Primary School booklet. SCICentre pound;3 each. From SCI centre School of Education, University of Leicester, LE1 7RF.

SCICentre, the National Centre for Initial Teacher Training in Primary School Science, is a joint venture between Leicester University and Homerton College, Cambridge, and is funded by the Society of Chemical Industry.

Founded in 1996, the centre, and these materials, aim to improve trainee teachers' understanding of science and develop their ability to provide stimulating scientific experiences for children.

The video starts with general exhortations to make lessons relevant and stimulating; terms that can mean little to trainee teachers unless they are given some practical examples. Here they will find plenty of carefully filmed activities in a real school.

The clips show experienced teachers organising practical science lessons in various ways: whole group, circuses, demonstrations, different groups doing different activities, some doing science some not, and so on.

Although the sight of cool, confident and competent teachers can sometimes be a bit daunting for novices, this series of short clips with useful commentaries gives practical meaning to the terms "relevant and stimulating" and is an excellent resource for group or individual viewing.

The Science PAL Resource Pack provides support for Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) projects, which enable students to work in classrooms alongside experienced teachers. This is a well-established idea that has its UK origins in the "Pimlico Connection" in the 1970s - a fascinating first attempt to link university students with schools in London. The book traces the history of PAL with useful references for the enthusiast, but most usefully provides practical activities for science students to support them and take into the classroom.

Using CD-Roms in Primary Science is an excellent introduction to information technology in the classroom. It starts with the basics - essential technical information, concepts and terms - followed by practical examples of classroom use. Commonly available discs from producers such as Anglia Multimedia, YTM and Dorling Kindersley are helpfully categorised according to how they can be used: encylopaedic, interactive, assessment, and so on. Key skills such as searching strategies and the ability to manipulate information are discussed and there are five examples of lessons using a specific CD-Rom, such as The Water Cycle (Anglia Multimedia) and The Oxford Children's Encyclopaedia.

A similar approach is taken with Data Logging in the Primary School. This is a well-written book, from authors with a wealth of experience in the field. Everything is clearly explained and well illustrated with examples from RM INVESTIGATE software.

A good range of practical classroom activities is included, which teachers can use almost off-the-shelf (provided they have the hardware and software). Experience does show, however, that data logging is still largely a rarity in school science and it will take more than a well-written book like this to change that situation. My suspicion is that data-logging is well down the priority list of trainee primary teachers.

In summary, this is a useful collection of material that will provide support, but not a substitute, for classroom experience, sensitive mentoring and activities and group discussion in British teacher training centres, and is excellent value for money.

Jerry Wellington is a reader in science education at the University of Sheffield

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