Robin Buss's pick of the week
It's science week for 11 to 14-year-olds with two double periods of Science in Action every night except Friday (when the final two-hour slot is devoted to a special schools version for 9 to 13-year-olds of the BBC series The Human Body). We start with six films on biology: life processes, from microbes to reproduction, via photosynthesis, nutrition, respiration and cells. Then chemistry, with a further six parts on matter, elements, mixtures, reactions, acids and alkalis, and rocks. Thursday is all physics: electricity, magnetism, and so on. The series concludes on Friday with six programmes on energy. The emphasis throughout is on practical examples and real-life applications. There are teachers' notes and videos to accompany all parts and the BBC Science in Action website should be up and running by the time the broadcasts go out.
Tudor Life. BBC2, Tuesdays to June 14, 10.50-11.10am
This being half-term week, BBC primary schools broadcasts get a week to go off and play, so this history series for seven to nine-year-olds is suspended between Food (May 24) and Street (June 7). Even though the Tudors (1485-1603) were our most colourful dynasty, we are not concerned here with the merry or murderous monarchs, concentrating instead on the daily life of their subjects. Street takes us down the smelly lanes of Tudor towns to evoke the life of a merchant; then Entertainment follows a company of strolling players round the fairs and into the great halls. It's a series (also available on video, tel: 0870 830 8000) that reminds us how hard life could be in Merrie England. The website for another history strand, Walk Through Time (www.bbc.co.uk historywalk), includes a game in which students have to chuck anachronistic intruders (a man on a penny farthing, for example) off a Tudor street. It might distract your class for a couple of minutes.
The 1940s House. Discovery Civilisation, Monday, May 30, 8-9pm
This repeat of the Channel 4 reality series should be of use to classes studying 20th-century social history. A modern family is sent back to live in conditions endured by Britons during the Second World War. Their experience says a lot about the role of women in Britain in the middle of the last century.
How Art Made the World. BBC2, Mondays to June 6, 9-10pm
Dr Nigel Spivey has built this five-part series round an interesting argument about the central role of art in human development, but it is unlikely to count among the real classics of the genre: Sir Kenneth Clark's Civilisation, Jacob Bronowski's The Ascent of Man, John Berger's Ways of Seeing or Robert Hughes's The Shock of the New. The problem with How Art Made the World is that Spivey insists on delivering his commentary in slow motion, which gives you time to guess that he has not too much to say.
However, parts of the series (on using art for political ends, for example) could be useful with A-level students.
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