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Universal support;Science

Please Miss, my Dad says that putting salt on the road melts the ice. How does it do that when it is so cold?" Do you teach 7 to 11-year-olds and are you bombarded by similar science-based questions on materials? If so, an exciting new initiative could help provide you with clear, practical support.

Materials in Action (MIA) is Unilever's first venture into primary science curriculum support. Working with teachers in primary schools and higher education, they have developed a resource of three books that comprehensively cover the introductory science of materials. They explore grouping and classifying materials, changes in materials and mixing and separating materials.

There is "background knowledge", designed to help teachers understand the basic science behind the work. Advice on key ideas includes "states of matter", the "particulate theory", "changing states", and what happens when a solid dissolves in a liquid.

Pupil activities form the framework of this resource. Where teachers are developing investigative and practical skills, the activities are set in a wide range of contexts - for example, stretching plastics, testing strength and hardness, chemical raising agents and separating materials. Some of the activities are structured; others can be used as the basis for investigations. Some activities lend themselves to problem-solving approaches.

Crucially, the books are underpinned by the equivalent of a day of professional development, also sponsored by Unilever and also available through your local SATRO. During the professional day, case studies lead teachers through the resources. One, on dissolving, filtering and separating, is designed to show progression, and examines conceptually complex issues that are often mistaught. Each text contains advice on safety, a glossary, useful resources and suitable chemicals - most of which are household items available from local shops.

The texts cover the proposed national curriculum requirements and the national curriculum in Northern Ireland. Teachers in Scotland will likewise find the programme directly applicable where "materials" feature in the primary curriculum.

For the address of your nearest SATRO offering the Materials in Action programme, contact Janet Greig on 0151 231 2400. Joseph Hornsby taught for more than 20 years in secondary schools. More recently he worked as an initial teacher trainer at the University of Northumbria

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