These enrichment activities get pupils to think about unusual animals and ways of converting natural power into electricity

This week’s primary enrichment activity, drawing on two recent fossil studies of animal ancestors for inspiration, pupils are encouraged to think of imaginary animals and describe their habitats.

This week’s secondary enrichment activity looks at the recent opening of the first marine turbine to produce commercial electricity and encourages pupils to consider which natural energy sources could best be converted into electricity.

***Primary Enrichment***

KS1 Science

‘During key stage 1 pupils observe, explore and ask questions about living things, materials and phenomena. They begin to work together to collect evidence to help them answer questions and to link this to simple scientific ideas.’

Big or small, what’s the difference?

A fossil found in Lebanese limestone has been shown to be the remains of a snake with two legs. Originally the snake, Eupodophis descouensi, lived some 92 million years ago. It was 85cm long. Palaeontologist Paul Tafforeau reportedly told the BBC:

‘In most cases, we can’t find digits; but that may be because they are not preserved or because, as this is a vestigial leg, they were never present.’

Also recently announced was the report about an ancestor of the modern elephant. A fossil study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that 37 million years ago the ‘aquatic elephant’ had a lifestyle similar to a hippopotamus. Dr Erik Seiffert, co-author of the study, told BBC News:

‘The isotopic pattern preserved in their teeth is very similar to that of living aquatic mammals. It supports the hypothesis that, at some point early in the evolution of elephants, these animals were very dedicated to either a fully aquatic or amphibious lifestyle – they probably spent most of their life in water.’

Some questions for your pupils to consider and discuss:

Ask children to imagine:

  • A snake, as big as a modern Indian or African elephant, that lived in water.
  • An elephant that stood on two legs instead of four and was as big as a small snake, such as an adder or viper.

How would such creatures live? What would they eat? Where and when would they sleep? What kind of stories would be written about them? How would they interact with the world we live in and with human beings? What would their names be? Children could be invited to draw these imaginary creatures if time allows.


Thinking about big snakes and little elephants

Going further

We tend to think of ‘big’ and ‘small’ in relation to our own height, weight and shape. An elephant we would regard as big, a mouse as small. Making sense of size is not easy. Ask children to think of some big animals, the bigger the better. Then ask them as a group to classify them by how big they would appear to each of the animals they have thought of. After the discussion about how they classified their animals, ask the children:

  • What would each animal they have thought of think was small or large in relation to themselves?
  • How do we decide what is big and what is small?
  • Why does it matter that we have an idea of what is big and what is small?
  • How often do we have to make decisions based on whether a thing is big or small, near or far?

Read the full stories about the snake and the elephant.

Learning and teaching Scotland.

5-14 Curriculum

‘Science contributes to Environmental Studies by providing a context for stimulating and encouraging pupils’ curiosity to explore and understand the world around them. The knowledge and understanding required for Earth and Space, Energy and Forces and Living Things and the Processes of Life reflect the major areas of scientific investigation and relate directly to children’s everyday experiences. Learning in science provides children with a context within which they can develop the skills associated with investigations. Through their application children will learn to deal with more complex concepts and scientific knowledge.’

International Baccalaureate.

‘The PYP [Primary Years Programme] emphasizes the importance of children making connections between their experience and the incremental pieces of new information they encounter. The programme supports the child’s struggle to gain understanding of the world and to learn to function comfortably within it, to move from not knowing to knowing, to identifying what is
real and what is not real, to acknowledging what is appropriate and what is not appropriate. To do this the child must integrate a great deal of information and apply this accumulation of knowledge in a cohesive and effective way.’

***Secondary Enrichment***

KS3 Geography

Geographical enquiry and skills In undertaking geographical enquiry, pupils should be taught to:

  • ‘ask geographical questions [for example, ‘How and why is this landscape changing?’ ‘What is the impact of the changes?’ ‘What do I think about them?’ ] and to identify issues
  • suggest appropriate sequences of investigation [for example, gathering views and factual evidence about a local issue and using them to reach a conclusion]
  • collect, record and present evidence [for example, statistical information about countries, data about river channel characteristics] analyse and evaluate evidence and draw and justify.’

Disastrous energy sources

The world’s first marine turbine to create commercial amounts of electricity is now working in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland. It was put in place by a crane barge at the end of March 2008. The manufacturers of ‘SeaGen’, Marine Current Turbines, claim that the turbine has the capacity to generate 1.2MW of electricity, four times more than any other tidal turbine. Strangford Lough has one of the world’s fastest tidal flows and the firm says that the turbine can produce electricity for 1,000 homes. Harnessing the natural energy produced by major meteorological and seismic events will become increasingly important as efforts to avoid climate change increase.

Some questions for your pupils to consider and discuss:

Ask children to choose the most likely source of energy that scientists could harness from the table below. What, for example, would be the benefits of taking the power out of a tornado? Conversely, would there be any harmful side effects to weakening the power of a natural event? Ask children, working either individually or as a group, to:

  • decide which power source scientists should concentrate their research on to draw the energy into a useful form
  • explain and justify their recommendations.
Hurricanes Tornadoes Electrical storms Volcanic eruption
High wind Cyclones Earthquakes Tsunami


Natural energy management

Going further

Ask children to draw their idea of a ‘tsunami power catcher’ or ‘hurricane harvester’. What kind of technology do they imagine would be necessary to deal with the gigantic natural forces they are considering? The resulting drawings and diagrams would make an excellent starting point for an article to submit to a major scientific journal. Help the children produce the article and work with them to see it published.

Read about the ‘New Scientist Schools Scheme’

Read about tidal power

Read about tidal power in the Severn.

Read about the power of tornadoes.

Read about tornado power.

Learning and teaching. Scotland

The nature and purpose of environmental studies

‘The curriculum area environmental studies brings together the main ways in which pupils learn about the world. It involves learning about the social and physical conditions that influence, or have influenced, the lives of individuals and communities and which shape, or have been shaped by, the actions, artefacts and institutions of successive generations. Acquiring, interpreting and using evidence and information about the world they live in is part of a sequence of discovery and rediscovery for every generation. Understanding the environment is important to every individual and to the community at large, and it is the task of the school to structure this learning so that pupils develop.’

International Baccalaureate. Diploma Programme curriculum

Group 4: experimental sciences ‘It is a requirement of the programme that students study at least one subject from group 4. Five subjects are available: All of these subjects may be studied at higher level or standard level, except environmental systems, which is available at standard level only. Each subject contains a body of knowledge together with scientific methods and techniques which students are required to learn and apply. In their application of scientific methods, students develop ability to:

  • synthesize scientific information.’

This e-bulletin issue was first published in April 2008

About the author: John Senior is the author of Enrichment Activties for G&T Pupils. He is a teacher with 26 years’ experience of teaching Gifted and Talented children, working with parents and carers as a consultant on high ability, and peer mentoring.

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