Science year (2): what to do

(Two articles)

Launch into Planet Science in the new school year. Save time and find good ideas - and it doesn't have to mean extra work

Roger Frost, September 2002, The Guardian

Sign up for the newsletter at (Sci-Teach) to receive a very upbeat email with ideas and news. What's more, this weekly mail is a painless way to keep up to date.
Delve the Planet Science archives for ideas on science assemblies, science open days and careers advice. (You may find a script for a play on astronomy or a template for a parents' science newsletter). There are science videogames here which pupils will find anyway, so make a note of what they might miss, eg case studies where young scientists say what they enjoy and how they got where they are.

Look out for free CD 4 which should go out next week. There's a clever revision activity where pupils teach a topic by making a presentation - but wait: they use PhotoJam software to write a rap to music accompanied by graphics, titles, and animations (thankfully supplied). The result can be saved for the world to enjoy on the web.

CD 5 features Ghost in the Machine, a science adventure about electromagnetic induction for 14- to 16-year-olds. True to the genre, there are unexplained deaths but this time they are linked with paranormal activity. Pupils build a dynamo, a ghost detector and map magnetic fields to solve the mystery. Due later this term.

Spend time with one of the Association for Science Education's CD-roms or, if you have a good internet connection, browse all of them at Seek technical help if you get stuck as the materials require Adobe Acrobat, PowerPoint and Flash. Blame only the computer for this but do persevere, as there's a lot to see.

If your laboratory is up for refurbishment, plan in some convenient access to video, a data projector, wireless printing, internet and file sharing. Advice and exemplars from Planet Science and the Science Council should be forthcoming.

Set up the Intel Play Microscope on a computer to make it available as permanently as you can. Position the PC monitor at a high level and the image should be more easily visible. Use the microscope for all but intricate detail - look at tadpoles, insect wings and antennae, the air pockets of insulating materials or the formation of crystals in rocks.

Visit the education shows to see tomorrow's ICT resources. Two big events next January include the ASE Meeting at Birmingham University ( ) and the BETT Show ( at Olympia.

Anything else? These websites take you to some of the best UK science teaching software for secondary schools: Fable - physics software for ages 12-18 years Sunflower Learning - chemistry software for ages 12-18 years


Science Year has a new name and lots of fresh ideas for bringing science to the classroom.

Roger Frost, September 2002 The Guardian

Launched a year ago to give attitudes to science a boost, Science Year last week became "Planet Science". It all started with the "Giant Jump", a symbolic nationwide bout of simultaneous jumping, looking to reverse a sad trend in the uptake of science subjects. Remarkably, a cast of thousands has run events from assemblies to circuses and developed resources from CDs to websites.
Few such initiatives before today have been able to benefit as much from ICT. What happened last year? What did you miss? What's happening next?

One thing is that the Science Museum polled thousands of students on what they thought of the science curriculum. Another is that Channel 4 ran a competition to see what students thought of the future. You'll not need to ask or phone anyone to find out more, you need the internet. If you want to feed on enthusiasm and a legacy of material start at Planet Science ( You will feed well and never imagine this campaign was the brainchild of a government department.

Equipment As part of the campaign's Kit-Pot, schools availed themselves of 4m of equipment in the name of science. But not everyone took up the offers.

Intriguing handouts included data loggers, biotechnology kits and electronic whiteboards. Among the freebies were 20,000 or more Intel Play Microscopes - remarkable devices that primary schools can use to look at insects, seeds, frog-spawn and finger-prints. They have also been used as video cameras for demonstrations. And then there were the software giveaways. Fable offered its Terminal Velocity to explain about gravity and falling by parachute.

All of this and more lingers at the website to download.

CD-Roms Schools also received three CD-roms with ideas, software and teaching materials. The content shows rare flare, and features highly creative approaches to teaching -much is ready "to go". In case the discs are not to hand, a good internet connection to gets all that you missed.

In Flesh Eaters (CD1), pupils investigate why the flesh on some dead bodies has seemingly dissolved away. Through on-screen instructions, video and class experiments they learn about enzymes and digesting things. Also here is Inside Body (CD1), where pupils are given photographs of diseased lungs and livers and create a PowerPoint presentation about the dangers of smoking and alcohol.

Human Torch (CD3) offers more gore as a video shows a discovery of someone that has burned away leaving hands and feet. Aiming to teach about combustion, this "learning adventure" for year 7 is nicely balanced, explains the Association for Science Education's Daniel Sandford- Smith. "What's good is the way that Human Torch mixes experimental practical work, on burning gases for example, with practical work at the computer."

Software Sandford-Smith also highlights two software models - easily missed within all that's here. One is Planet 10 where pupils create a planet adding land, sea, microbes, plants and people, launch it into orbit and see how it fares. The other is called Variables and Relationships (VnR) where you can build a population model or a gravity model by setting relationships between variables. The model supplied lets you experiment with the spread of a virus under different conditions. Those who have been waiting for a generic modelling tool will want to see this. Produced by the association, two more CD-roms should arrive this term. One is imminent.

New aims Whereas last year the aim was to improve people's perception of science, Planet Science manager Melanie Renowden adds that now there are new imperatives. "Among them is the representation of girls in science, the promotion of careers in science and the quality of school labs," she says.

"We expect to make more equipment available to schools and we are in the process of planning for the year. While not everyone gets to hear about the projects and support on offer, the Planet Science website will be the place to get the information."


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