Life, energy and all that

24th March 2000 at 00:00
With the Association for Science Education Scotland meeting in Dundee this weekend, the following three pages focus on the latest resources for science teachers.

SCOTTISH SCIENCE 5-14 STAGE 1 PRIMARY 3 (Level A). By Joe Boyd, Lesley Cameron, Sheilah Jackson and Walter Whitelaw. John Murray Publishers, pound;85 for teacher's book, picture pack and pack of 20 workbooks.

Whether you're teaching in Stornoway or Sanquhar, Ayr or Aberdeen, the response is likely to be the same - thank goodness for a good primary science scheme written exclusively for Scotland and matched to the national guidelines for environmental studies.

Science, to the average teacher who may have gained a couple of O gradesStandard grades, or even once aspired to the heady echelons of the Higher syllabus, is an area of the curriculum which can cause concern.

The breadth of knowledge within the 5-14 attainment targets and key features can seem daunting, and teachers need to have a clear understanding of what they are required to teach. Unfortunately many of the science schemes on the market assume a depth of background knowledge which not all teachers have. Scottish Science 5-14, which has just published the final part of Stage 1 - Primary 3 (Level A), is a programme of study "that will provide full coverage of the whole of the 5-14 science curriculum".

This is the third of three separate sets of teaching materials which could form the basis of science for P1-3. Each set of materials comprises a teacher's resource book, picture pack of 12 full-colour cards and assessment workbooks which correspond to the three independent units within each set. There s also an additional skills-focused assessment workbook in each set which over three years addresses all the different attainment outcomes.

The units may be mixed and matched with topics already being delivered in early stages to provide a scientific context.

Reading through the teacher's resource book it is easy to see that primary practitioners have been involved, as much is in place to support the class teacher.

In the study "Lots of energy", for example, each lesson is prefaced with information on linked earlier work and future related work, so that the lesson does not seem isolated. Materials needed are listed clearly, as are suggested stimuli, main activities and organisational points. There is guidance on informal assessment and differentiation of the main activities.

My favourite support in each lesson is the background information for teachers, which highlights difficult concepts for children to grasp, such as the sun being an inanimate object.

The assessment workbooks are used as evidence of achievement, with homework pages which allow parent-child interaction and foster home-school links. But these are not photocopiable.

Some of the same old spectres are still present - such as the problem of prepared resources. Could some company not supply the basic necessary resources to deliver the lesson adequately? But the material does its best to simplify resources.

Overall, this scheme makes a welcome contribution to Scottish educational resources, especially as it promises "full coverage of science 5-14".

Cathy Morrison is depute headteacher at Kilbowie Primary, West Dunbartonshire.

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