Trever Critchley reviews this activites resource aimed at secondary students

Using Catalyst magazine - scientists and how they work
London: SEP
London: SEP 2011 | Pp46 | Download free at www.sep.org.uk |

Screenshot of Using Catalyst magazine - scientists and how they work

Catalyst is pitched at a level that is both interesting and accessible to secondary school students. Ideally, our charges would all be so keen on background reading that they would subscribe to it themselves. Since some may need a bit of gentle persuasion, Using catalyst magazine - scientists and how they work may come in useful. 

It is well designed with a good range of activities relevant to the current GCSE curriculum, all of which can be freely downloaded from the publisher's website. 

This would be a good supplement to the excellent Learning Skills for Science course, also run by the Gatsby Science Enhancement Programme. I was pleased to find that the activities go beyond comprehension-based questions towards tasks with a greater cognitive demand - developing skills that will not only enhance the curriculum, but also enable students to become more effective learners. This is not just something with 'pop science' value. 

Closely structured activities include: 

  • 'Developing and testing a question', where students consider experimental design in the context of alleged health risks from mobile phone signals, then interpret and evaluate data to develop a conclusion.
  • 'Testing an idea' and 'Working as a scientist' are based upon the work of scientists tackling health issues in a historical and a modern-day context respectively. These activities are more creative - giving a talk, designing a cartoon or planning an interview. Students are given a framework to help them pick out key information from the articles.

There are six varying activities in this resource. Alone, they would make a positive addition to any scheme of work. If teachers are inspired to develop further activities Catalyst magazine is fully accessible online. Chemistry Review published by Philip Allen Updates could also lend itself to something similar at post-16 level.

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