Environmental science

20th April 2001 at 01:00
Spring has been slow to arrive, but suppliers have been quick off the mark to source a batch of new resources to help you and your class explore the world outside the classroom.

Man-made bees' nests from the Oxford Bee Company have been produced to help boost Britain's declining bee population. The nesting kit has been designed specifically to match the natural nest sites of the Red Mason bee, which is a good pollinator of fruit trees and garden flowers. If you are concerned about the safety of attracting bees to your garden, the sting of the Red Mason is mild compared to that of a wasp or the honeybee, and will sting only if roughly handled.

Instructions are supplied with the kits, which are available with 20 or 100 nesting tubes. The small cylinder nest costs pound;8.95 (plus pound;1 pamp;p) and a large cylinder nest costs pound;17.95 (plus pound;2 pamp;p). Contact: Oxford Bee Company, 40 Arthur Street, Loughborough, Leicestershire LE11 3AY. Tel: 01509 261 654.Email: oxbee2000@netscapeonline.co.uk Website: www.oxbeeco.com Study the life cycle of the butterfly with a butterfly-rearing kit. The Butterfly Bungalow, measuring 25cm x 35cm x 18cm, is the smaller of two kits from Insect Lore, and the hatching house can be coloured in with the crayons supplied. As well as five Painted Lady butterfly larvae, and food, you get an activity guide, feeders, a butterfly chain to colour and a butterfly life cycle fold-out.

The larger Butterfly Garden School Kit, which has enough room to rear 33 Painted Lady butterflies, also comes with flower feeders, pipettes and instructions. The Butterfly Bungalow costs pound;16.44 and the Butterfly Garden School Kit, pound;38.76. Both are available from Insect Lore, PO Box 1420, Kiln Farm, Milton Keynes MK19 6ZH. Tel: 01908 563 338. Website: www.insectlore-europe.com With air holes and a magnifying glass in the lid, the Bug Viewer provides a cheap, safe and easy way to look at mini beasts. Three hard-wearing pots, which also contain a grid for observation, cost pound;6.10, and are available from: TTS, Monk Road, Alfreton, Derbyshire DE55 7RL. Tel: 0800 318 686. E:mail sales@tts-group.co.uk. Website: www.tts-group.co.uk If you're not sure what you've got in your Bug Viewer, there is a dial-style guidewhich should help out. The two-sided disc features basic information on 29 creatures, ranging from mussels and water scorpions to whirligig beetles and pond snails. Dial-A-Bug costs pound;2.10 and is also available from TTS. (As before).

The In the Garden Habitat wall hanging doubles as a teaching aid and decoration. The nine PVC creatures and labels have Velcro backing, making it easy to change the scene. Garden Habitat measures 40cm x 60cm and costs pound;32.50. Contact: Active Designs, Unit 6, Home Farm Business Park, Church Way, Whittlebury, Northants NN12 8XS. Tel: 01327 858 522. E:mail: info@activedesigns.co.uk Website: www.activedesigns.co.uk Top 50 Garden Birds is a waterproof concertina guide to British species, with detailed drawings on one side and written information on the reverse. It costs pound;3.50, and is available from Commotion Science, Unit 11, Tannery Road, Tonbridge TN9 1RF. Tel: 01732 773 399.

Mr Rotavator, the Alan Titchmarsh for primary children, is a bit old-style with his dungarees and sock-puppet sidekick. You might find parts of his See It Grow video a bit slow, but the more interesting segments - how to grow seeds with easy-to-follow instructions, a few insider gardening tips and a sparky idea or two - make up for the Matthew Kelly-type presenter in Worzel Gummage garb.

The video is part of an activity kit that includes four seed packs and a useful set of teachers' notes on growing plants and the national curriculum. A voucher for a free bag of compost is included.

See it grow costs pound;9.99 and is available from Television Junction, Waterside House, 46 Gas Street, Birmingham B1 2JT. Tel: 0121 248 4466. E-mail: tvjunction@compuserve.com Kindergarden (not pictured) is a ready-made hanging bag with a mix of Nutrigel plant food and natural compost. The 15-inch bags can be hung up after they've been planted out (plug plants are the best option). A spray bottle is supplied to apply the child-friendly and natural fertiliser Agrisol on to the leaves. Kindergarden, also available in flat packs for window sills, costs pound;29.75 (ex VAT) for a pack of five. Contact: 4128, Laverock Hall, Egglestone, Barnard Castle, County Durham DL12 0AY. Tel: 01822 650 695.

Yolanda Brooks

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