Jenifer Burden dives into energy issues and cellular evolution and discovers help is at hand when it comes to the tricky bits of science.
As background readers for pupils aged nine to 12 the main aim of the Energy for Life series is probably not to teach specific concepts, but it does not shy away from them. Some aspects are very detailed for this age group. For example, Nuclear Energy covers atomic structure, isotopes and radioactive decay. This material tends to be concentrated at the beginning of each text. Go further - or better still pick them up and dive into the middle, as pupils flicking through them might do - and the strength of the series becomes apparent.
The parts considering questions for individuals and society are very appealing. These look at issues such as our reliance on fossil fuels for transport, the pros and cons of different alternative energies, difficulties in deciding on safe levels of exposure to radiation, and what concerns energy use generates for individuals and the world's population.
These big topics aren't fudged and the material is clear and accessible.
The books are well illustrated and presented in clear type. Sometimes the scientific terminology comes thick and fast, and the glossary would need teacher back-up. As a result younger or less-able pupils would not find it easy to engage with all of this, but do they need to? Like the technology sections explaining how we find and extract oil or how the combustion engine works, it's there for those that want it.
The books' key strengths would be providing insight into how science shapes everyday lives, stimulating discussion and individual interest, and supporting cross-curricular approaches.
A lovely journey through one of the fundamental stories of science is Supercell. This is a fun, nicely illustrated read for pupils aged eight to 12. It follows cellular evolution from the origins of life, through specialisation to multicellular organisms. The science is detailed, but technical words are sounded out and do not spoil the story.
Teaching the Tricky Bits - Science by regular TES Teacher contributor John Stringer is a series of concise background books for non-specialist primary teachers covering the science curriculum. With an interesting, readable style the five titles provide a good overview of concepts, which is handy when you're faced with pupils' questions. There are suggestions for activities and fascinating facts in each section, along with examples and snippets to engage pupils that will make the specialists jealous.
Energy from Fossil Fuels
Energy for Life series
Heinemann pound;11.50 hardback, pound;7.50 paperback each
Making Sense of Science series
Portland Press pound;6.99 paperback
The Human Body
Plants and Animals
Forces, Electricity and Magnetism
The Earth in Space
Teaching the Tricky Bits - Science series Hopscotch pound;9.99 each.