Science - Volumes with mass appeal

22nd February 2013 at 00:00

What it's all about

Fantasy and horror novels are very popular, and children who read them can often impress you with their knowledge and understanding in this area. So why aren't we using the power of a strong narrative that captures the imagination of children to help explain basic scientific concepts, writes James Williams.

The market is not short on these books. Take the Uncle Albert trilogy. In this short series of children's books for 9-11s, difficult scientific concepts are tackled, from the idea of time and space to black holes and quantum physics. Uncle Albert (Einstein) helps his niece Gedanken (from the German Gedankenexperiment or "thought experiment") to understand physics by going on a journey with her into his thoughts. They seek answers to fundamental questions. The author is a professor of physics, Russell Stannard.

The history of science offers fascinating stories, such as the discoveries of Mary Anning, as told in Stone Girl Bone Girl by Laurence Anholt and Sheila Moxley. Anning was a fossil hunter who discovered the first plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs at Lyme Regis. Another series of adventure stories, by Lucy Hawking, brings in some of the latest physics research from the Large Hadron Collider at Cern.

Writing about complex scientific concepts for primary children isn't easy, but a key element of engaging them and stimulating their desire to grapple with difficult ideas is providing them with a cracking good story and strong characters with whom they can identify.

What else?

Pupils write an adventure story about the science lab with this video from Teachers TV. bit.lyScienceLabMystery

See carly24's guide to teaching science through stories. bit.lyScienceTales.

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