Looking ahead

28th October 2005 at 01:00
In 1898, cinematographer Charles Urban filmed maggots through a microscope on a piece of Stilton. One of the earliest scientific films, this also has the distinction of being the first film banned in Britain: cheese manufacturers complained that no one would eat their product again after seeing it.

Despite this setback, cinema and television would become major resources for science education. The only problem is that film, easier and safer, may be discouraging hands-on experiments in class.

On Teachers' TV website (www.teachers.tv), you can download the videos Demonstrating Physics and Demonstrating Chemistry, which have practical advice about how not to blow up the science block or asphyxiate the students.

Teachers TV is having a Science Week from October 31 to November 6. This includes key stages 3 and 4 science: biology, three pairs of programmes on stem cell research, HIV, and skin cancer. The first film in each pair is a case history with an explanation of the scientific background; the second suggests how the topic can be tackled in class. All three subjects have implications not only for science, but for PHSE and other curriculum areas.

This is why teachers' notes can be so vital - for example, the excellent programme notes on the Channel 4 website (www.channel4.comlearningprogramme notes) for the primary design and technology series Making It (Tuesdays, November 1-29). After stating the aims and curriculum relevance of each of these short films, they outline the content and show in detail how to make the item: a grass mat, a Brazilian guitar, masks, and so on.

Another science series with reliable back-up is the BBC's Pod's Mission, which has its own website (www.bbc.co.ukschoolspodsmission), with lesson plans, worksheets and games. The fourth series is showing after the half-term break (Tuesdays, November 8-29) and covers life processes and materials.

There is a lot of science on mainstream television, too, often with an educative slant, but only classroom experience can show you how to make effective use of this. Think of each lesson as an experiment, set it up carefully, test it on the pupils, analyse the results and adjust accordingly. The lessons you learn will last your teaching career.

Robin Buss

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