Watch with Mabel
This series emphasises the value of children learning from first-hand experience, using the resources of the outside world around them. It aims to encourage an investigative app-roach to learning through enquiry and exploration in the familiar everyday world.
Vivacious Aunty Mabel and her dog, Pippin, investigate the world, often travelling in their aeroplane which provides a window on the wider environment. The series concentrates on one theme in each programme, and covers topics including bricks, carrots, pencils, soap, street lamps, brushes, marmalade, frogs, bulbs and butterflies.
Throughout the series, poems, traditional rhymes and stories are linked to the day's theme, in order to add interest and to create child appeal. The themes cover not only the needs of the science, technology and geography areas of the curriculum but also, and more importantly, build on the young child's interests and first-hand experience.
The series, for example, covers all four science attainment targets, thereby preparing for the requirements of the national curriculum, but also reinforcing the knowledge of children who are already working within key stage 1.
Each unit states the intended learning outcomes, specifying the knowledge, skills and understanding that the children should acquire. This enables the teacher to prepare activities which will support these learning outcomes.
The programmes can either be used as a starting point, or as a follow up to other activities. The teachers' notes are an excellent resource, giving not only ideas for what to do but also what to talk about. In addition, a list of books is recommended for each of the selected topics and, much to teachers' delight, photocopiable worksheets are included.
One of the greatest benefits of a television series like this is that it makes connections between things visually, in ways that children would not normally have access to. In the programme on bricks, Auntie Mabel's aeroplane ferries them from brick laying to a clay pit, to a brick-making factory and on to a building site, bringing the outside world directly into the classroom. In the programmes on butterflies and frogs, tele-science is at its best, catching on camera the life cycles of these creatures.
Most pleasingly, we found at my school that each of the themes in the series can be fitted directly into our long-term national curriculum planning, and used as an integral part of the learning materials.
Teachers' notes cost Pounds 2 from BBC Educational Publishing, PO Box 234, Wetherby, West Yorkshire, LS23 7EU (inclusive of post and packing)