Salty crisps in the house of doom

4th April 2003 at 01:00
The Little Book of Experiments. Edited by Sophie Duncan and Alice Bell. Hodder amp; Stoughton distributed free.

Magnets, Power and Stunning Fish: Faraday's Life of Science. By Grant Bage. Anglia Young Books. Pupil books. pound;4.50. Teachers' manual. pound;24.50

Science Experiments with Sound and Music. By Shar Levine and Leslie Johnstone. Stirling. pound;7.99

100 Science Homework Activities Years 3 and 4. By Malcolm Anderson and David Tomlinson. Scholastic. pound;17

100 Science Homework Activities Years 5 and 6. By Clifford Hibbard, Karen Mallinson-Yates, Ian Mitchell and Tom Rugg. Scholastic. pound;17

I'm glad a complimentary copy of The Little Book of Experiments was sent to every maintained primary school as a result of AstraZeneca's sponsorship of Planet Science. (It's also available at It contains 34 excellent activities for key stage 2 in a sensible format for easy photocopying and has good links to other parts of the KS2 curriculum and KS3 science. Some of it will be familiar to teachers but much is new or helpfully re-worked. I particularly like "Which crisps are the saltiest?", "Make your own sunset" and "It's a gas".

Writing the history of science for primary pupils is never easy but Grant Bage helps to engage them with the wonderful story of Michael Faraday in his Magnets, Power and Stunning Fish: Faraday's Life of Science.

The account of how Faraday pleaded with Sir Humphry Davy - unsuccessfully at first - to be taken on as his laboratory assistant still brings tears to my eyes. The teacher's manual, also by Bage, is scholarly and helpful.

Science Experiments with Sound and Music is a North American book previously available only in hardback. It has a wide range of practical activities and excellent colour photographs and cartoons. There are some fine suggestions I hadn't come across before - for example, the simple experiment with wooden doweling to illustrate why some notes sound good when played together and others terrible. There is also a lot of information on how we hear as well as on scientists who have worked with sound.

100 Science Homework Activities Years 3 and 4 does exactly what it says in the title, providing "ready-to-use, easily administered homework tasks, supported by comprehensive notes". I liked the activity "Shadow Theatre presents: Trapped in the House of Doom!" starring Matt, Vicki, Professor Fang and Lady Cobweb (Sc4 3b in case you are wondering).

There may be slightly too many activities of the type "Nurse Nabeela was X-raying Curious Craig when the machine broke down! Can you help?" but there is great value in here - and I enjoyed the humour, such as the reference to "Blake Midwinter and his World of Weather".

100 Science Homework Activities Years 5 and 6 has more of the same for older pupils and is particularly strong on sustainable development.

Michael Reiss

Michael Reiss is professor of science education at the Institute of Education, University of London

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