Robin Buss's pick of the week

1st October 2004 at 01:00
Scottish Settlements BBC2 Fridays, October 1-15, 10.30-10.45am

Location, location, location is the subject of this new three-part series for the "What? Where? When? Why?" strand, for five to seven-year-olds. Why do people choose to settle in particular places? The first programme looks at basic needs - for food, water, shelter and defence. The second part is about open spaces - parks, playgrounds and playing fields - and how they are designed to serve the people who live near them. Finally, we end with towns and how buildings function in the community. There are teachers' notes and an interactive website, which gives viewers a chance to plot the locations of housing and services, choosing the best options and reflecting critically on their choices.

The Story of the Novel. C4 Monday-Thursday, October 4-7, 9.30-10.20am

This history of the (English) novel is bound to involve some simplifications. It starts 100 years after Don Quixote, with Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, and sets out to show, in four parts, why the novel was so controversial in its early years and how it developed to become the dominant literary form of the 19th and 20th centuries. Designed for 14 to 19-year-olds, the narrative includes interviews with John Carey, AS Byatt, David Lodge and Claire Tomlinson.

Short Circuit: Chemistry, Health, Physics. BBC2 Thursday, October 7, 2-6am

The topic of the week on the BBC Learning Zone is science. Last night, this came in the form of Curriculum Bites - topics in the science curriculum that students find difficult to grasp, broken down into five-minute chunks. Tonight, we have 12 programmes in a series that encourages discussion among 14 to 16-year-olds about major scientific themes. We start with the periodic table, compounds, atmospheric change and polymers. This is followed by two programmes on health issues: smoking and alcohol. Then, in the last two hours before sunrise, we turn to physical processes - pressure, radioactivity, electromagnetism, and so on. And the series continues at the same time on Friday, with more of the same, plus biology. There are additional resources to go with the programmes, including DVDs (available from BBC Children's Learning, PO Box 234, Wetherby, West Yorkshire, LS23 7EU).

The First World War. C4 Weekdays, October 1-8, 11.10am-12noon

This fine documentary series, based on the book by Huw Strachan, started last week. It traces the history of the defining conflict of the 20th century through voice-over commentary, archive film (with added music and discreet sound effects), and extracts from contemporary documents, such as the letter from a French ambulance driver, writing to his son in 1914: "How are you getting on at school? Don't be too quick to learn the geography of Europe, because I think it's all about to change."

The big picture and the political history are here, but so too is the experience of the ordinary people whose lives were shattered by the war. It is often their testimony that prevents simplification of the arguments about why and how the Great War was fought.

First Steps in Drama. Radio 4 Thursdays, October 7-21, 4.30-4.45am

For the next three weeks the series for seven to nine-year olds consists of a unit on Lyman Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz - a story about taking responsibility and building self-esteem. As the title suggests, the broadcasts are primarily intended as a drama resource, but they can be applied to other curriculum areas - particularly, in this case, PSHE.

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