Science shows fpr primary schools


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Follow up work for teachers


The purpose of the show was to help develop wonder, and encourage curiosity about the world, and to relate it to the science curriculum KS 1&2. The two stages are mixed so that performances to the whole age range within a primary school are possible, and teachers can take what is relevant from the show for a particular group.

N.B. The content relates to understanding the natural world, rather than the application of science through technology.

 This guide is to indicate links that point to one or more areas of the curriculum that can be used in class-work. It is far from complete or exhaustive and is only a beginning. Any suggestions for additions or improvements will be welcomed and appreciated.

 PLEASE NOTE. The show is constantly evolving and every performance is slightly different. There may be references in this material to pieces that were not included the performance you watched.


General Follow-up Work


1)     Ask children to state three or more things that they learned from watching the show.

       2)     Create a Book of Questions for the class.

 3)     Ask for three or more questions each for the Book of Questions

 This can be any question about anything: most questions can lead back to the science curriculum, eg. Why do my brotherís feet pong?

 Fill several pages with random questions, then write one question at the top of a page and derive other questions from it eg:

 Q.   How do birds fly?    Answers may include: The atmosphere has buoyancy, leading to

Q.   What is the atmosphere?

 Answers can then lead to questions about pressure and forces, or go off on another tack and ask questions about itís composition, and what the various gasses do and, how plants use our carbon dioxide and how the carbon cycle works, global warming, and how plants grow upwards against gravity, and now we are back to forces, and can continue to develop that theme.


Specific Follow-up Work

1) The Book of Questions and the Curiosity Poem

 The Book of Questions is a device to emphasise Ideas and Evidence and demonstrate the need to first define the question you want to answer before you start looking for answers.

 The ĎHave You Ever Wondered?í poem is an inducement to curiosity  - We observe something interesting, we become curious, we investigate (ask questions) and discover.

 Finding answers is easy, you donít have to try,

Just ask a good question, How What When or Why?

 Possible class work would be to think of an interesting question Eg Why trees have leaves, then think of as many questions as possible around that topic eg.

 Does a tree have leaves to keep it warm?

Are they there to look nice?

Are they for birds to shelter under?

Why are leaves green?

What time of year do they fall?

Is the temperature cooler or warmer when they fall?

When do leaves come out again?

Why do they have leaves in summer?

Is it to stop the tree getting sunburnt?

Do trees breathe?

Do they fight? (Yes in that they compete for light but itís in very slow motion so we donít see it).

Do they mind birds making nests and hiding in them? (No, they like it because birds are useful for removing insects and grubs that eat the tree)

Do they get thirsty?

Do trees grow all the year round or just at certain times Etc.


Creative questions should be encouraged because they stimulate imagination: many scientific discoveries were made because people asked silly questions! A whole lesson could be devoted to asking interesting questions.


2) The Flying Walking Stick as an Introduction to Forces


A stick that can balance, then fly through the air and whack the unfortunate bottom of William B Curious Ė what is going on?


Gravity applied a force to the chair that toppled over. Before hitting the ground with enough force to make a loud noise, it applied a force to the end of the walking stick, whoís equal and opposite reaction caused it to fly though the air. The stick then applied a force to the behind of William B Curious who happened to be bending over at just the wrong moment, to pick up some toothbrushes that had fallen from his pocket, also due to the force of gravity.


Suggestions for class-work and discussion:


1) Why can the stick balance on his hand but not on itís own?

How do we stand on one leg?

The chair fell over too. How many points does an inanimate object need to stand on?


2) This can be followed by a more detailed look at the nature of forces and pupils can be asked to provide other examples of forces in action (and reaction).


3) Nothing moves without a force, and you need a force to stop something moving, so what is the force that slows a bicycle down when you stop pedalling? (Remember friction in the moving parts as well as the air)

 4) What are the effects of forces? They produce movement, sound, heat. (Rub your hands together and feel the heat produced by friction), damage, injury, pain, distortion; every manufacturing process uses forces. 

5) There is also a reference to circulation. Measure the pulse rate of children before and after exercise, and explain its purpose.

 During this piece, gravity causes problems with Willís pet toothbrushes. He fatuously suggests that they have been reproducing like guinea pigs. This is an opportunity to discuss the difference between things that are alive and things that have never been alive, and also the fact that living things reproduce themselves (and non living things donít) and as itís toothbrushes that are causing the problem, we can also mention care of teeth. - Four topics from the curriculum in a few toothbrushes!


3) The Trumpet, a Honking Cushion and The Nature of Sound.

  This piece is a source for examples about the properties of sound.

The Ďtrumpetí is simple enough, but if you donít know how it works you have to discover it through investigation. A large instrument produces a bigger and deeper sound, and it will also amplify sounds. Clowns bring inanimate objects to life, and as the trumpet develops itís own personality, it has to be reminded that it is not alive.

Just when everything seems to be going smoothly, the honking cushion presents us with a new problem, and another opportunity to play with investigation, asking questions, and discovery. Where does the Ďhonkí come from? And just when the problem seems to be solved, a final honk raises another question. Are there two horns?

 Sound has a source, it requires a medium to carry it, larger objects produce deeper sounds. Also note that you need to apply a force to make a sound move the air Ė nothing moves without a force!

 Suggestions for class-work:

There is enormous scope for experimentation with sounds produced by hollow objects, and how the sounds are affected by factors such as size, or filling the object with varying amounts of water, sand or cloth. A tin-can telephone with two cans joined by a piece of string demonstrates the use of another medium to carry sound. Prisoners tap on water pipes to communicate with each other.


4) The Floating Falling Scarves and the Mystery of The Rainbow

Another look at gravity, and the density of the atmosphere and how this creates buoyancy and friction.

Our hero tries to make sense of his observation that some things fall to Earth more quickly than others. His initial deductions may seem ludicrous, but it is important to consider all information before jumping to conclusions. The suggestion that blue is heavier than red may seem absurd, but the history of science is the history of empirical deductions that seemed obvious at the time and only later turned out to be wrong when further evidence came to light. What could be more ludicrous than to suggest that the Earth goes round the Sun when you can plainly see that the Sun orbits the Earth! All the evidence should be considered.

There is plenty of class-work here involving buoyancy and friction from the air and how it affects our daily lives. Eg The effects of strong wind, parachutes, sailing ships, windmills, the flight of birds and aeroplanes.

 This piece moves on to rainbows and a look at the properties of light, and how early scientists tried to explain them. White light contains all the colours of the spectrum, there are countless colours in a rainbow, and we see rainbows under certain conditions only (the sun behind us, the rain in front, and for the really clever ones, refraction occurs when the incident light strikes the rain drop at an angle of 42 degrees).

 The magic trick in which the scarves tie themselves together is a useful investigative tool, because before the renaissance, people believed in the reality of magic as the only explanation they had for unexplained phenomena. It was only with the birth of science that the world could be explained through observation and deductive reasoning.

 Suggestions for class-work:

 1) Buoyancy

 There is an interesting exercise where children are given a bowl of water and a piece of clay. They have to decide whether the ball of clay will sink, then experiment, then see if they can find a way to make it float. Some may place it on a piece of wood, others will alter its shape, either way it is a lesson in buoyancy. The buoyancy of the atmosphere is less obvious, but is demonstrated by the scarves. On a breezy day two children can hold up a newspaper or large cloth to feel the pressure of the wind (or they can run with it), and parachutes are simple to make from cloth, string and a small weight. Experiment with areas of cloth relative to weight.

 2) Magic

 Group discussion to determine how the scarves were tied together.

 Finding answers is easy Ė you donít have to try,

Just ask a good question Ė how, what, when or why.

 Children will usually ask how a trick was done which gets you nowhere, but if you ask when (they were tied together), or were (they the same scarves), then it becomes obvious: the scarves must have been tied together before the show, and switched for another set.

Deductive reasoning is the foundation of scientific thinking!

 3) Light

 As for the continuous spectrum of light, where else do you see a light spectrum? Ė Crystals hung in windows. Oil on puddles, CDs, hologram wrapping paper, security marks on credit cards and banknotes, etc.

 5) Lets Measure a Rainbow!

 This is a simple optical illusion to show the importance of measuring and recording.

 Suggestions for class-work:

When do our senses deceive us?

 1)     Coming indoors from bright sunlight a room may appear darker than it is.

2)     We wonít hear the birds singing when there is a lot of background noise, but the birdsong volume is constant.

3)     Colours look very different depending on the colours next to them.

 It isnít difficult to find optical illusions in a book or the internet, but it is worth taking measurements to verify that our brain deceives us.

6) The Water Cycle.

 Why do living things need water and why do they need to keep replacing it? This was touched on during the show and there is plenty here to elaborate on. We evolved from the sea and we are still comprised mainly of salty water Ė we carry the sea inside us.  We need a constant throughput of water to get rid of waste Ė a subject that never fails to engage children!

 Water doesnít disappear but is continually recycled. Most of the water on the Earth has been here for billions of years and is the same water that gets re-cycled. Like all living things we have to keep changing our water to get rid of unwanted waste products, so the water that currently makes up most of our bodies has been used already by countless other animals. (Yes we are drinking dinosaur pee!) It is a matter of choice how far this discussion is taken, although it does have interesting cross-curricular links with some religious beliefs that living things are united, and it is our thinking that creates separation, rather like the colours of the rainbow.

 Suggestions for class-work and discussion:

1) A simple experiment demonstrates the water cycle in action:

 Take a clear glass jar with a metal lid. Pour a small quantity of warm water into the jar, replace the lid, pour a little cold water onto the lid and place a freezer pack on top of that. You now have a miniature water cycle.

 2) Have the children write a story about a rain-drop. Maybe it soaks into the ground and is drawn up through the roots of a plant that is eaten by a cow, we drink the milk, then we pee - sorry there is no way out of this! The water then goes down the sewer, and ends up in the sea and after having been through various species of aquatic life, evaporates and falls as rain again. Or maybe tell the story of a water droplet that first fell into a puddle that a dinosaur drank up to the present day! The possibilities are endless and this is an excellent exercise in creative writing too.

 3) And of course we still donít know what happened to the water that was poured into the hat, although children with young siblings who are still wearing nappies might be the first to work it out.


1)     Absorbency could be the basis of an experiment on properties of materials: Place a standard weight (or similar sized piece) of a range of materials Ė stone, bread, sponge, natural fabric, synthetic fabric, socks, kitchen towel, etc in a standard volume of water and measure how much is left after five minutes. Prepare to be amazed at the results of disposable nappies that contain polyacrylamide crystals! 

7) The Feather Balance


Children usually assume that this is a trick involving Blue Tac, but it is simply a matter of balancing gravity, movement, and the buoyancy of the air. Interestingly when trying to balance a feather on a finger, children invariably look at the finger Ė the Ďtrickí is to look at the top of the feather.

 *     *     *     *    

These suggestions hopefully provide ideas to make teaching science a little easier and perhaps more interesting. However, the main purpose of this project was to stimulate curiosity and interest in the world and how it works. The centrepiece of the show was the Book of Questions, and this is central to this process.

 Each class can have itís own Book of Questions. Groups of children discuss what they would like to know, and the questions are written into the book. These can then be topics for future lessons, or for workshops linked to the show.


Footprints in the Sky was devised and written by

Mike Rawlinson

Directed by John Lee


© Mike Rawlinson 2005


This material is intended solely for teachers to use in class work following a performance of Footprints in the Sky. Schools may photocopy it for this purpose, but any other copying is prohibited.


Footprints in the Sky was possible thanks to funding by Arts Council England

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