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All that you need to ensure challenge and rigour in the science curriculum.

Challenges in Primary Science: Meeting the Needs of Able Young Scientists at Key Stage Two Coates, D and Wilson, H (2003) NACE/Fulton ISBN 1843120135

The blurb on the back cover of this text states that, ‘This practical and easy-to-use book enables teachers to challenge able children to develop their potential and extend their thinking in primary science. It links theory with practice and empowers teachers to build on their existing good practice to create an inclusive science curriculum for able children.’ I am happy to report that after reading this text with great interest from front to back the above claims are not empty boasts but actually a very succinct summary of what this highly valuable book offers the KS2 science teacher.

The content of the text is organised clearly and helpfully into chapters that address how to plan for challenge within the existing curriculum, implementing assessment strategies that can be used to complement and enhance the ‘challenge’ approach to teaching science and a chapter devoted to each of the four aspects of the science curriculum, offering practical and exciting suggestions as to how to make the teaching and learning in this subject area meet the needs of the most able students in our classes.

The work and concepts of many of today’s recognised leaders in the field of gifted education is referred to in a way that makes the theory easily accessible, digestible and applicable. Csikszentmihalyi and his concept of ‘flow’, Van Tassel-Baska and her essential features of a science curriculum for gifted children, Gagne and Renzulli and their conclusions as to what learning conditions and learning dispositions are necessary in order for a child’s promise to be fulfilled, all make an appearance. As a fan of the work of De Bono and Fisher, I was also particularly pleased to see techniques and methods focusing on improving children’s thinking skills included.

As a strong visual learner I was very appreciative of the effort that has been made to present the information in a variety of ways: tables, graphs, diagrams, flowcharts and comics are all used to very good effect in order to highlight pertinent concepts and pieces of information. I personally rediscovered the wonderful teaching aid of ‘concept cartoons’ that are ideal for promoting and facilitating discussions and the sharing of ideas. Details are also provided as to how to use the cartoons as prompts for research and investigations.

Would I recommend this text to a colleague? Most certainly. In fact, I have already done so. Our very talented head of science was grateful to receive this book and commented that it provides all that is needed for a teacher wanting to ensure that there is enough challenge and rigour in the science curriculum. The text is going to be an important reference source during an upcoming science curriculum review day where the science team will be revising our KS2 medium term plans with the aim being to ensure that planned tasks and investigations excite, stimulate and challenge our most able students by providing them with opportunities to take risks, think creatively and sustain learning.

Reviewed by Nonie Adams, director of studies and G&T coordinator at the British School in Tokyo.

This article first appeared in Gifted & Talented Update – Nov 2005

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