ACTive LEARNING SERIES. Edited by Chris Scanlan. Little Octopus, CD-Roms pound;29.95 or all six for pound;149.75
CREATIVE SCIENCE ACTIVITY PACKS. G Alan Revill. David Fulton Publishers pound;15 each
Anne Goldsworthy looks at series that use drama and art to bring science topics to life
Materials aiming to bring creativity back to the primary science classroom are welcomed by many teachers who are concerned their science teaching has become a tad dull. For this type of material to be successful, however, it needs to address real science issues, aim them at a specific age range and provide stimulating activities.
There are six packs in the ACTive Learning series. They are produced on CD-Roms or can be downloaded as e-books from the publisher's website (www.littleoctopus.com). Each one contains 10 lessons taking teachers and pupils through the steps needed to perform a five to 10-minute lively and humorous science play.
Each disk contains science, design and drama activities as well as some guidance to help pupils write their own scripts. The team at Little Octopus should be applauded for linking science and drama in this way and for taking the teaching of both subjects seriously. However, despite there being much to recommend in these CD-Roms, the intended level is not clear.
For example, The AOPR Man is linked to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's unit on "changing state" for Year 5. Although the play keeps to within the key stage 2 unit of work, some of the science activities go way beyond it and deal with cooling by evaporation, and the structure of atoms.
Likewise the Animal Crackers CD is linked to the unit for Year 1 on "ourselves", but the play deals with respiration and the exchange of gases.
Since the drama activities are similar on every disk, activities which rely heavily on reading and writing might well fail if attempted with KS1 or lower KS2 pupils. However, with a little judicious pruning for different ages, putting on these plays could bring a bit of sparkle back to your science lessons.
There are four Creative Science Activity Packs aimed at KS2 on the themes of predators and food chains, rocks, "minibeasts" and trees and plants.
Each pack has 10 cards with an activity outlined on each.
The diverse activities are mainly art-based, with ideas ranging from quilting to making mobiles. Some of the simpler activities would work well in a primary classroom, such as using close observation to make clay representations of seeds. Others, however, would be too demanding even for top juniors.
The thought of trying to get 30 pupils to design and make costumes for an Ugly Bug Ball, with some "wriggling out of their skins to reveal a beautiful imago", would send many teachers into a cold sweat, especially when there is only one card to support the children.
While these activities do make links between science and other subjects you should not expect them to teach pupils anything new about science or challenge the ideas that they hold.
Anne Goldsworthy is an independent consultant