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
N.B. The content relates to
understanding the natural world, rather than the application of science
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.
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
Ask children to state three or more things that they learned from
watching the show.
Create a Book of Questions for the class.
Ask for three or more questions each for the Book of Questions
can be any question about anything: most questions can lead back to the
science curriculum, eg. Why do my brotherís feet pong?
several pages with random questions, then write one question at the top of
a page and derive other questions from it eg:
How do birds fly? Answers may include: The atmosphere has buoyancy,
What is the atmosphere?
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
Are they for birds to
Why are leaves green?
What time of year do they
Is the temperature cooler
or warmer when they fall?
When do leaves come out
Why do they have leaves
Is it to stop the tree
Do trees breathe?
Do they fight? (Yes in
that they compete for light but itís in very slow motion so we donít
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
stick that can balance, then fly through the air and whack the unfortunate
bottom of William B Curious Ė what is going on?
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.
for class-work and discussion:
Why can the stick balance on his hand but not on itís own?
do we stand on one leg?
chair fell over too. How many points does an inanimate object need to
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
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)
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.
There is also a reference to circulation. Measure the pulse rate of
children before and after exercise, and explain its purpose.
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!
Trumpet, a Honking Cushion and The Nature of Sound.
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.
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?
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!
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.
Floating Falling Scarves and the Mystery of The Rainbow
look at gravity, and the density of the atmosphere and how this creates
buoyancy and friction.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
discussion to determine how the scarves were tied together.
answers is easy Ė you donít have to try,
ask a good question Ė how, what, when or why.
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.
reasoning is the foundation of scientific thinking!
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.
Lets Measure a Rainbow!
is a simple optical illusion to show the importance of measuring and
do our senses deceive us?
Coming indoors from bright sunlight a room may appear darker than
We wonít hear the birds singing when there is a lot of background
noise, but the birdsong volume is constant.
Colours look very different depending on the colours next to them.
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.
The Water Cycle.
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!
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
for class-work and discussion:
A simple experiment demonstrates the water cycle in action:
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
Footprints in the Sky was devised and written by
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