Science explorer, General Editor: Ken Dobson, Pupil Book Pounds 4.95. - 000 327504 3.
Copymasters Pounds 39.95. - 000 327505 1, Collins.
Science Explorer comprises a pupil text and set of photocopiable masters that can be used alongside any existing scheme at key stage 3. It is a collection of activities designed to meet the specifications for Experimental and Investigative Science in the context of life, materials and physical sciences.
The pupil book contains 54 such activities; 36 are identified as short ones which focus on specific skills, while 18 long ones offer the chance for pupils to practise all the main investigative skills. They provide assessment opportunities too.
An example of a short investigation is Canny Containers, where the activity focuses on the skills involved in Analysing evidence and drawing conclusions. There's information about the reactions between six different metals and cold or hot water or dilute hydrochloric acid. After some questions about reactivity and displacement of hydrogen (the analysis bit), pupils then have to decide on the best metals for a tea urn, a cold water tank and a drum for hydrochloric acid (the drawing conclusions bit). Exercises like this are useful reinforcement activities and ideal homework tasks, as most do not need specialist equipment.
"Jelly for tea" is a longer activity set in the context of a birthday party where the students have to investigate the factors affecting the solubility of jelly. In the pupil's book, there's a humorous drawing of the party preparation, a photograph of a man in an apron no stereotypes here), next to questions that check pupils' knowlege about particles and factors that may affect how sugar cubes dissolve in water, and then the practical investigation itself, sub-divided into Plan Ahead, What Happened?, Look at the Evidence and Explore Further sections. The first of these has a traffic light logo of red (stop-caution), amber (check) and green (go ahead - explore) which will help establish safe procedures.
The Teacher's Guide outlines in detail the skill areas covered in each task and also includes copymasters which may help pupils, Thus, Jelly for Tea has a sheet on Dissolving which gives factual background and data for plotting solubility curves. Some of these sheets may be used independently of the activity (for example, Drawing Graphs and Knowing your Equipment) and so will be useful in science teaching at many levels. If laminated, they could form a useful reference bank in any laboratory.
The practical activities contained in the resource will be familiar to most teachers, but what is novel and original are the ways in which they are presented. The contexts, like halls of mirrors, rock concert special effects and greasy spoon cafes (in the activity Killer sandwiches) are likely to appeal to most pupils at key stage 3. The illustrations are outstanding. So, if you are looking for a resource that gives a boost to your teaching when you are feeling a bit jaded, this is well worth looking at.
Jackie Hardie is deputy head of The Latymer School, Enfield