Ted's teaching tips

9th February 2001 at 00:00
Yo-yos, children's games and scooters all move in and out of fashion. This picture illustrates life in the first quarter of the 20th century, and the scooters offer the chance to discuss fitness, fashion and social history.


What is the difference between these old scooters and more recent ones (later versions had inflatable tyres and were more comfortable. Micro-scooters are better designed, collapsible and robust)? What health benefits does a scooter offer (pushing yourself along increases your heart rate and level of fitness)? This sort of activity is called "aerobic" exercise, but what does that mean (it comes from the Greek meaning, "air for life" and involves doing moderately strenuous exercise such as jogging, swimming or riding a scooter for a decent period, which help the heart to use oxygen more efficiently. "Anaerobic" exercise, by comparison, is a short burst of speed that leaves you short of oxygen and gasping for breath)?

Social history

How do we know this picture is of a scene 70 or 80 years ago (the style of dress, hair, lettering, type of scooter, and the fact that it's black and white, although this is no guarantee)? How different was a child's life in the Twenties and Thirties (no central heating, fires at home, poverty and high unemployment, dirtier cities, smoky chimneys from homes and factories, most children only had primary-level education in an "all age" school for pupils aged five to 14? Do you know anyone aged more than 80 who might havebeen a child at the time? Ask them about their childhood. What were, and still are, the features of the "corner shop" (usually owned by a local person, unlike supermarkets and chain stores, which have driven many out of existence. They were often grocers, butchers, ironmongers, newsagents or fish-and-chip shops. Owners usually knew their customers by name)?

Faces and body language

This picture is obviously posed, but what do the faces and body language suggest? Is the shopkeeper a kind person who likes children, or is he just keen to make a profit? Do the children seem like you and your friends (in personality, not dress)?


Do the people in the picture seem happy, sad, curious? Write about one or more of the adults and children. Who are they? What are they thinking? What are they going to do next?


Scooters are back in fashion again, so should people buy one?

For Pushing yourself along offers healthy exercise for the heart. Too many people use cars for short runs, when they could easily go by scooter. It is environmentally friendly, cheap and safe. Riding alongside a friend is also fun and sociable.

Against Scooters are just another passing fad. Soon they will be stuck in a shed - unused like these earlier ones. Children and adults have to ride them on the pavement, which is a hazard for pedestrians. Riding them on the road poses even more of a danger.

Ted Wragg is professor of education at the university of Exeter

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