SCIENCE FAIR PROJECTS SERIES. Electricity and Electronics. The Environment. Energy. Flight, Space and Astronomy. By Bob Bonnet and Dan Keen. Sterling Publishing, New York. Available through Chris Lloyd Sales and Marketing Services, 463 Ashley Road, Parkstone, Poole, Dorset BH14 0AX pound;10.99 (paperback pound;5.99)
Parental support for children's leisure activities has traditionally been focused on sports, music and dance. The British Association for the Advancement of Science and the annual Science, Engineering and Technology weeks each March aim to extend this to science and technology. These books from the United States have the similar aim of parents supporting and sharing children's enthusiasm for science.
Each title contains about 50 ideas designed to suit junior and lower-secondary-age children, to be carried out at home and used for science fair events. Only Electricity and Electronics explains this.
Despite this, many activities in this book are heavily laden with theory (some of it wrong) and the practical work is very directed - often to good effect. Environment activities often set up hypotheses, but these can also be highly directed and do not reflect how children would think.
Energy is much concerned with transfers and use and has some ingenious ideas. For example, comparing the rate ice melts in a dark drink such as cola, with lemonade or water, and calculating the electricity cost of playing computer games. There are also many activities that are familiar and some that seem trivial or inconsequential.
Flight, Space and Astronomy has a mix of observing, modelling and research activitities which would be useful as part of a science club programme.
The books' American origins can be distracting and the mix of theory and practical is sometimes misleading. They are best seen as a resource forteachers to support classroom or out-of-school activities.
Martin Hollins is a senior lecturer in science education at Roehampton Institute