24th March 2000 at 00:00
SCIENTIFIC EYE. Physical Processes 3: Temperature and Heat, Electricity for the Future, Light and Reflection, Magnetism, Machines and Moments. Channel 4

Last in series March 30 or available as five 20-minute videos for pound;19.99 Programme notes are available on the Channel 4 web site: www.channel4.comschoolsnetnotes.

The main reason for using video in the science classroom is to show events, phenomena and experiments which cannot be carried out in the school laboratory. The strength of this excellent series is its wide range of eye- catching examples to help pupils grasp some of the difficult concepts of physics at key stage 3.

The language is pitched at the right level, the commentary is clear and crisp with a good Yorkshire flavour, and relevant history is injected at different points.

The first programme, Temperature and Heat, tackles difficult concepts clearly and engagingly. We start with a helicopter chasing a band of criminals to show how thermal imaging can help us see in the dark. This is followed by other real life examples of thermal imaging, such as a child's lips when eating an ice cream and a man's skin as he enters a cold shower. The video then moves on to the explanation of heat and temperature in terms of molecular movement. Ther is a small, interesting dose of history showing how thermometers developed.

Electricity for the Future covers electricity production from coal-fired power stations (with a visit to Drax) to solar cells in the roof of a house. Each process is shown to have its benefits and drawbacks and the treatment is fair and balanced. Again, there are lots of eye-catching examples, including a visit to a power station which uses chicken faeces ("poo" in the video) as its fuel. Light and Reflection starts with last year's total eclipse of the sun and an excellent explanation of why it occurred. Magnetism covers fields, poles and the uses of magnets but again does so with a wide range of interesting examples and visits to places such as a magnet factory in Sheffield and a shipwreck in Cornwall, explored by divers.

Finally, Machines and Moments deals with pulleys, levers, pivots and moments. What can be a dry topic is enlivened with examples ranging from erecting a circus big top to kangaroos hopping and parrots perching.

Good quality video material for key stage 3 science is not easy to come by. These latest programmes from Scientific Eye live up to the high reputation of the series.

Jerry Wellington is a reader in education at Sheffield University

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