3. Using Science to solve a problem

We try to make sense of our world and then we use what we have found out to help us do things. It is the same with science. Results from investigations can sometimes be used to solve problems we face in life. This is linking science and technology and helps pupils to understand why it is important to study science.

The Key Activity (read this now) builds on knowledge gained from Activity 2 to solve a technological problem. How will you assess your pupils in this activity? After the activity, think about how your pupils reacted to this way of working –did they work well in groups? Would you do anything differently next time you do this?

In Case Study 3, a teacher encourages his pupils to use what they have found out from Activity 1 to plan and present shadow-puppet plays.

Case Study 3: A shadow-puppet play

Mr Mapushi projected shadows of mystery objects on a screen when doing Activity 1. Three pupils stayed behind to investigate and play with the items used. He watched them as he tidied the classroom.

They realised that the scissors or the pliers seemed to ‘speak’ if you moved the parts.

‘Hello, I am Mr Scissor-mouth. I am a very sharp guy!’

‘And I am Mr Heavy Hammer and I am going to beat you to death!’

They soon improvised a plot for a short play where Mr Hammer threatens Mr Scissor-mouth. But Mr Scissor-mouth is rescued by Mr Long-handle Pliers! Mr Mapushi gave them a chance to present their shadow-puppet play to the class.

The class became very interested in shadow puppets. Some pupils made cut-out puppet characters and discovered how to join parts that could move, using thin wire or dry grass-stalks for rods and supports. The way they used what they had learned in science amazed Mr Mapushi. They made the puppets appear larger and smaller, clearer and more blurred, and they were able to create different shapes with the same puppet by holding it at different angles to the screen. (See Resource 5: Ideas for creating shadow puppets).

Key Activity: Problem solving – applications-led science

Write this question on the board:

‘What is the problem if you are a short person standing near the back of a crowd at a soccer match?’

You can’t see! Ask your pupils how might you solve your problem? What about mirrors? Design something to solve the problem of seeing over something higher than you.

In groups of three/four, pupils design, make, compare and assess their own device to see around corners or over the top of a high obstacle.

Before they start, pupils need to discuss the following points in their groups:

  • How many mirrors will you need?

  • What angles will the mirrors need to be placed at?

  • How will you hold, fix or support the mirrors safely and securely?

  • Draw a plan for the device.

Then, before pupils start building their devices, discuss with them the criteria you will use to evaluate their devices. Draw up a list and display it during the activity.

Resource 6: Periscopes –ideas to get you started has design ideas for periscopes and some suggestions for evaluating the finished periscopes.

2. Using games and pictures to explore reflection

Resource 1: Safety advice for teachers