Take a chance
HENRY AND THE BICYCLE ALARM, Pounds 3. Understanding Electricity, PO Box 44, Wetherby West Yorkshire LS23 7ES. SCIENCE FROM RHYMES, By Barry Parr and Margot Graham. Watts BooksQuestion PublishingPounds, 8.99. 0 7496 1745 4. BRIGHT IDEAS: SCIENCE PROJECTS, By Frances MackayScholastic Pounds 7.99. 0 590 53323 1.
CONTINUITY AND PROGRESSION IN SCHOOL SCIENCE, Pounds 9.90. Association for Science Education, College Lane, Hatfield, Herts, AL10 9AA 0 86357 2103
Roger Frost's selection of primary activities includes techniques for exploring Humpty's relation to gravity and how to wire up a security alarm for a dog's house. Nursery rhymes? Games? Stories? Making models? Is that how you teach science? Let's not be shy about this, isn't science meant to be fun? Maybe one day you will teach all science on a Nintendo. In the meantime you have got Key Stage 2 Games - a box of 20 very attractive board and card games. It can stand alone from the science scheme it came from and has a good, arty look in which it's still easy to read the captions.
There is the "Tree of life" game, where pupils might land on a fir cone and pick up a card. They discuss whether "New road built in the forest" or "Very wet weather, seeds germinate" is good or bad for a tree, before they move forwards or back. Or similarly, in another, called "Save it", they travel round a house and decide how to save energy in each room. In "Balance of life" players match vegetation cards with animal cards and collect pairs to win.
These games can generate discussion, give pupils tangible things to sort out or reinforce knowledge. Some, like "The water cycle game" where pupils travel around a picture of the cycle, do not add much value. I was not so impressed with weather symbol bingo but moon phases rummy was better, and a challenge to put the "phases" in order.
The production is extravagant and the box has cards, counters and even plastic bags to keep things together. The instructions are less well thought out: they are a nuisance to use and little help in assembling what you need.
I invented a new game where you put the worthy games on one side and the rest on the other - and found eight quite reasonable ones. Let the size of your budget decide how the game ends.
Henry's Home is a substantial model house, which even has a staircase, and Henry is a dog. You can furnish his house with appliances and even light it up using the supplied switch, wire, bulbs and screwdriver. A battery isn't included. You can use the house alongside your work on electricity, perhaps running it as a side-show. Sixteen work cards and a teacher's guide cover assembling the house, as well as content such as conductors, series and parallel circuits, home appliances and fuses. There is plenty of practical work to do, and a moderate amount of thinking but the strength of the pack is in setting the understanding of two-way switches and so on, slap bang in the home. Nice one.
Henry is also the star of Henry and the Torch - a story where pupils design a torch using scrap materials, and Henry and the Bicycle where they design a security alarm. The stories are a little contrived, although they add a touch of colour to using the house.
In Science from Rhymes you can take Humpty Dumpty and use two syringes and a tube to push him off the wall hydraulically. Or you put a model Humpty back together, or make a weighted, wobbly Humpty that does not fall down. Or you can make a Humpty spinner in which he appears to sit on a wall when you spin a two-sided picture.
Each activity fills a page and there are some decent questions to support most of them. The background reading pages approach humour, for example, "Why did he have a great fall? There are no clues. The facts are stark . . . ." And there is plenty of practical, if wordy detail if you care to read it. Five more rhymes and sets of activities complete this booklet which, though the pictures are primitive, is good on ideas.
Science Projects offers a range of activities for eight science themes. For example, it covers air, machines, ourselves, planet earth and living things. Each of these themes has 10 activities with a rigid and consistent approach. So in "What is air?" children have to describe how liquids and gases are different.
The book has a list of things to get together which certainly saves you thinking. It also has science knowledge that might set you thinking: how does one translate this science (for instance, how molecules pack together) into explanations that work with five-year-olds? I'd like to know, because that's really problematic.
You can cull this for ideas for follow-up work on making a kite or talking about how we use air. But you will need to work on turning a do-this, do-that approach into something more open: like asking children how they might do it. Doing science was big in the 1980s; the learning objectives or why we're doing it, are today's big theme.
For something more reflective, Continuity and Progression in School Science collects together some research and discussion on a complicated but topical area. Eight short chapters look at issues such as promoting pupil independence and the transition from primary to secondary school.
A second booklet gives you experiments that you can try with pupils and colleagues to see, for example, how pupils experience continuity or even whether they are aware of progression in their learning. While this is crucial material for student teachers and science co-ordinators, it is heavy, studious stuff and not for casual break-time reading.