Switched on Science is a new scheme of work for teachers looking to revitalise their primary science provision in light of the changes being made to the science curriculum. This is good timing as my school’s long-term goals for science are undergoing far-reaching changes and the audit is well under way. The science subject leader is on maternity leave, we’ve got several teachers hitting the panic button and our old scheme includes traces of zircon. I’m sure this resource will be well received and will definitely be on the shortlist.
I spent some time with the Year 4 resources, which include a Teacher’s Guide, an activity resources book, a networkable CD-ROM and access to Tigtag videos – all yours for £150. The Teacher’s Guide is perhaps the most critical component of any scheme because it has to offer expertise without watering down the content or being condescending. It has to be flexible, too. Happily, this supple guide is pitched perfectly and will suit novice and seasoned campaigners alike. There are six topics covering the new curriculum in each guide: the first five are directly linked to the programme of study and designed to cover a half-term each; the sixth topic is Super Science, an ‘off-road’ unit that reinforces key skills in working scientifically. Within each topic you will find three units and within each unit there are learning objectives, success criteria, a list of required resources, and essential teacher knowledge. I was impressed by the inclusion of a ‘Children might think…’ section that notes some common pupil misconceptions, and a ‘thought-bubble’ of questions that can be used to promote research skills and deeper reflection. Added to this are cross-curricular lesson ideas and links to must-see topic websites. And this is all before you reach the actual activities, which are split into quick challenges and main activities, with support and extension ideas as well. There’s a familiar assessment page at the end of each unit so you can see the learning that is, or isn’t, taking place. That’s quite a menu and hard to pick fault with; every base is covered in one shape or form.
Linked to every Switched on Science pack are some awe-inspiring and thought-provoking science videos provided by Tigtag. These fascinating, top-quality videos are a superb add-on, guaranteed to capture children’s attention and add to their knowledge and understanding. Made by award-winning film makers and educators, the 36 videos for Key Stage 1 and 2 are rather special.
The activity resources book that comes with the pack has a fine collection of photocopiables and includes investigation scaffolds, diagrams for labelling, tables and timelines – although I would have liked to have seen a wider range of assessment for learning activities, particularly discussion-based approaches such as concept cartoons, true-false statements, and odd one outs. Usefully, this book comes with some tests and answers so you can check what children have learnt.
A key feature of the resource is the CD-ROM: it contains everything inside the Teacher’s Guide together with resource sheets and medium-term plans that are easily edited. There are also interactive digital activities, which will add further fun to your lessons.
Off-the-shelf schemes don’t take into account the differences between schools, but they can be adapted and edited to find the best fit. Switched on Science is a flexible programme and I prefer to see it as a ‘scheme of learning’ rather than a ‘scheme of work’. This is not a one-size fits all programme, rather it contains enough guidance to help teachers plan their own learning episodes without being a slave to the bullet-point culture. It’s suitable for all levels of teaching experience and it gives sufficient background and support to allow any teacher to feel confident she can present the subject knowledge in the most appropriate way to promote progress in learning.
In summary, this is a high quality teaching resource that puts practical investigation at the centre of its lessons. It is very accessible, and full of excellent lesson ideas to enjoy. It might have benefited from an example of what a good science lesson looks like in practice, and perhaps some advice about what contexts will engage pupils, especially girls. However, this is a very good scheme of learning and, run consistently through the school, I can see science lessons enjoying a bit more of the limelight and inspiring children to work and think scientifically, whilst being wowed along the way.