5th January 2007 at 00:00
Primary Electronics Kit. Cambridge BrainBox. pound;14.99.

John Dabell has great expectations for circuit kits, but discovers they're not all pulsing with possibilities

The educational market is swamped with hands-on electricity kits for key stage 2 and they all seem to do pretty much the same thing. A creative project kit would really stand out. So, does the Primary Electronics Kit impress? In part, yes. In fact, it's the parts that make up the kit that do the impressing.

The components are connected with clip-together press studs, easy for small fingers to assemble. Parts are colour coded and numbered, making identification straightforward. There should be no excuses for not putting bits back in the right place after circuit building: the specially designed box has every part mapped out, so each one has a home.

On the negative side, the introductory teacherparent notes comprise brief and factual points about electricity, but nothing more. There is nothing about how to get the most out of the activities, and assessment for learning does not get a look in. That said, the notes that follow offer clear step-by-step instructions about how to build a circuit.

The vocabulary children encounter when studying electricity is well explained. The accompanying circuit diagrams are easy to read and build from. But you get the feeling that the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority scheme of work has been shoehorned into the first few pages. They fit, but the next size up might fit better.

The box boasts more than 100 exciting experiments, but the contents page lists 39 actual circuit investigations to follow, which can be easily modified. There is plenty for children to go at, from discovering the difference between series and parallel circuits to using light emitting diodes, building a fan and producing police and ambulance sirens. But it's difficult to see how the kit would fit into a lesson with 30 children all clambering for a piece of the pie, so it's probably better suited to small group work, a science club or home use.

Electrifying? No. Practical and value for money? Yes. What would make the difference? A CD-Rom demonstrating how to build the circuits, teacher notes and a resource book without the formality

John Dabell is a former primary teacher and teacher trainer.The Association for Science Education conference continues today and tomorrow in Birmingham:

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