Journey ever onward

11th September 1998 at 01:00
Progression in Primary Science
By Martin Hollins and Virginia Whitby
David Fulton, #163;15

Progression in Primary Science is subtitled "A Guide to the Nature and Practice of Science in Key Stages 1 and 2". Quite rightly, it highlights learning as an active process in which children select and relate knowledge. This process, unfortunately, can produce misconceptions that may be difficult to change. The authors take the attainment targets of the national curriculum Order for science - experi-menting, life, materials, physical processes - and explain the science that underpins them.

The first, experimentation, is described concisely and clearly. There is a popular misconcep-tion that experiments are for demonstrating what we already know. The authors make it quite clear that this is not the case.

"Life" is divided into its characteristics and the environment. The cell,life process, diversity, classification, adaptation, interdependence of living things and our impact on the environment are described simply and accessibly. This chapter is a rich source of up-to-date information with some starting points for teaching. The need to avoid overwhelming the science with facts is emphasised.

The chapter on materials deals with, for instance, solids, liquids and gases, mixing and separating, changes, and mechanical properties. Do consult at least the Association for Science Education's booklet, Be Safe! before attempting some of the activities. While a "large variety of materials" could be heated by a candle flame, some, such as plastics, produce toxic fumes.

"Physical processes" covers electricity, forces and energy, sound, light, Earth and space. The final chapter describes how to plan, organise and assess primary science.

Do not assume that the content of this book is what you should teach in the classroom. Its aim is to increase your knowledge, so the science goes much further. Achieving a progression in learning is difficult, particularly at the fine, week-by-week level. This book tends to discuss progression at a more gross level, so that the subtitle is a better guide to the content.

Douglas Newton is professor of education at Newcastle University

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