Jim Merrett visits some science websites to find out how they can contribute to lessons
Crocodile Clips (key stages 3-5)
Although this is a commercial software company, a great number of free resources have been put on its website, including eight physics lesson plans and more than 60 for chemistry. The lessons come with teacher notes, student activities and downloadable simulations, created to address the specific teaching objectives.
Natural History Museum (KS1-5)
The museum has some lively interactive features on dinosaurs and geology, details of Captain Cook's voyage on Endeavour (1768-1771) and information on biodiversity. There is an opportunity to watch leaf-cutter ants on live webcam and see the results of the 2001-02 survey on woodlice. The science part of the site explains more about the specimens on show but with a collection of more than 70 million, they can be forgiven for not having them all available for view on the net.
Planet Science (KS1-4)
Planet Science is run by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts but is linked with the Association for Science Education and Science Line. See the Sci-teach area for a good selection of experiment ideas that may be searched by age group or topic. The site also offers science news, a newsletter, a library of web links and information for parents. There are details of careers and further study in science.
Children will enjoy the Wired section where they can find interesting games, quizzes and facts.
Teacher Resource Exchange (KS1-5)
Nearly 400 science resources have been donated to the Teacher Resource Exchange, including lesson plans, Powerpoint presentations, simulations, worksheets and much more. All age groups are catered for and themes include materials, plants, habitats, the body, the solar system, light, the food chain, the life cycle, radioactivity and many others. There are also GCSE resources. Search by age group or theme.
Despite the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia, there is a constant flow of space news coming from information gathered from the International Space Station and unmanned probes and satellites. Interesting new discoveries are being made on a daily basis. The NASA homepage features the most important items. The site also has information about satellite launches and provides teaching resources for earth and space science.
The educational resource area provides multimedia activities, such as movie clips, webcams, archived photographs and details of how to track satellites. There are also downloadable plans for making model spacecraft and other equipment. In addition to many other resources for teachers and students, there is a link to the NASA for Kids site. This provides plenty of information for children, although in some cases the text size is very small and some parts of the site require a registration process.
Wildlife Aid (KS1-4)
Noting the effects of man's activities on the environment, Wildlife Aid exists to help redress the balance more in favour of Britain's wildlife.
Much of its work consists of caring for sick, injured and orphaned creatures and working towards their rehabilitation. A fast connection is advised, as the site has a high graphic content and would otherwise be slow to download. An online Badger Club is being prepared for the site, offering games and quizzes. Schools need to go through a registration process to access resources and information.
Secondary Online Science (SOS)
Aimed at KS3, this new site is the result of a partnership between the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of Chemistry and 4Learning.
Excellent graphics have been provided and the intention is to motivate pupils while they learn and reinforce their science knowledge through a series of interactive games, grouped under three headings: Energy Quest, Fashion Victim and Sound Park.
Energy Quest offers challenges about energy and nutrition. The main game is set on three holiday islands where energy problems must be solved before the start of the holiday season. One of the islands is hot, one cold and one has mines!
Fashion Victim involves applying knowledge of the properties of various materials to the purchase of clothing and its use for various activities.
Cotton, Kevlar, wool, silk, nylon, Lycra and polyester are among the fabrics covered and the games offer reminders about their properties.
Sound Park provides audio samples and the opportunity to do activities about sound and light. There is a chance to compose music and upload it to the Channel 4 site for others to hear. The games are good and are closely linked to national curriculum science requirements, although they take quite a long time to play so a few lessons in the computer suite are appropriate, rather than a quick 10 minutes before the bell. There are also quizzes and information for teachers, parents and students. High scores are recorded as an incentive to beat them and the games are designed to appeal to those who enjoy using their computer games skills and those with a good scientific background.
This interesting site, suitable for KS2 upwards, has recently added an exciting new resource area called Portfolio. Portfolio illustrates some of the most interesting exhibits in a group of hands-on science centres, in Britain and abroad. Colour photographs are used and some of the illustrations are animated. The visual element can often help with understanding scientific concepts and can provide ideas for classroom experiments and science centres to visit.