A rag doll is not something one would normally expect to find being used as a teaching aid in a Year 6 classroom. However, when Dena Lawrence, science co-ordinator at Featherstone primary school in Southall, West London, assessed a selection of health education resources for TES Primary, she reserved all her enthusiasm for Galt's Take-Apart Doll (pound;32.95), which had proved a big success even in the top juniors.
The doll may look like any soft toy but, when its jacket is unfastened, a skeleton is revealed and, beneath that, the internal organs, all clearly labelled and attached by Velcro so that they can be easily removed. The innermost layer displays an illustration to ensure that the pieces are put together again in the correct order.
"This is a fantastic resource which can be used throughout primary school," Dena Lawrence says. "All the children over the whole age range were intrigued, and the boys were just as keen as the girls to get their hands on it. It's perfect for helping them to understand their bodies and the functions of each organ. With the younger children, we were able to identify basic organs such as the heart and lungs and, at key stage 2, we discussed the function of each organ and what happens if they don't work properly."
Dolls were also favoured by Margaret Edwards, Year 2 teacher at St Luke's primary school in Cambridge. She was very impressed with Tommy and Annie, two large dolls from Hope Education which also have hidden depths - front and back panels open to reveal the organs inside. Each doll also has a removable backpack, holding 15 templates with text describing how the body works; these can be superimposed on the doll to help find each organ. "I used them as support for a topic on keeping ourselves healthy with my own class, but they could be used at all levels, building on the children's knowledge. I found them particularly good with children who have English as an additional language as they stimulate lots of discussion but are also very visual."
These dolls sound a bit pricey at pound;79.95 each but Margaret Edwards predicts they will have a long life as science and PSHE resources throughout the school. As Tommy and Annie have approximately correct genitalia, they may also be used to discuss the basic differences fr early sex education, for which there still seems to be a dearth of resources at the primary stage.
One item with lots of child appeal is the Baby Development Tunic from Hope (pound;69.95), which demonstrates in an accessible way the size, shape and position of the foetus as it develops. Three baby models, plus labels, are supplied with the tunic. It's fun as well as informative and children will vie for the privilege of wearing it.
For a more in-depth study of individual body parts, check out the series of take-apart organ models from Hope. To date, this includes the ear, eye, brain, teeth and digestive system. Costing pound;15.95 each, the models are made of tough foam and enable children to learn about the key features, functions and structures of each organ through hands-on investigation. Each comes complete with a laminated teacher's guide and photocopiable worksheet.
The major educational suppliers are rapidly expanding their range of heath education resources. For instance, you will find lots of new products in this year's NES Arnold catalogue, many relating to the topic of healthy eating. For younger children, the Big Plate Bag (pound;38.95), a soft padded "dinner plate", complete with detachable foodstuffs and labels of the main food groups, can be used to visually demonstrate the importance of a balanced diet.
Also from NES Arnold, Food Memo (pound;16.95) is a pairing game that consists of 28 large cards, each 10 x 10cm, depicting a selection of popular foods.
There are two further food topic activities from Learning Resources, aimed at the youngest children. The Magnetic Healthful Foods set helps to identify the five main food groups and contains 34 magnetic pieces, a wipeable write-on place-mat, menu pad and teacher's notes with lots of suggestions on how the set can be used. Multicultural Magnetic Foods, features representations of food from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Europe, and includes 36 magnetic pieces, suggested activities and information on the various foods. Each set costs pound;24.95.
* Worth considering as a complementary additional resource is Become a Human Body Explorer by Paul Dawson (Dorling Kindersley, pound;9.99) reviewed in last month's TES Primary.
Contact details: Galt 08702 424477; Hope Education 08702 433400; Learning Resources01553 762276; NES Arnold 0870 6000 192