Contemporary Science Issues: Lessons for Key Stage 4
  Biology Chemistry Physics
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This resource pack is designed to address the need for teaching materials satisfying a range of the requirements of the new National Curriculum for GCSE Science, introduced in September 2006. It comprises a set of 18 lessons (six for each of Biology, Chemistry and Physics) complete with resources, lesson plans, technical advice, worksheets and assessment materials.

Rob Tweats, the project leader, is a lecturer in science education and the science co-ordinator of the PGCE at Keele University. The materials were prepared by a working party of science teachers drawn from Keele Education Department’s Initial Teacher Training Partnership, building on their experience of a successful KS3 Science Strategy/SEP project Teaching Ideas and Evidence in Science at Key Stage 3 (available from the SEP website

The emphasis of the lessons is on ‘data, evidence, theories and explanations’ married to ‘applications and implications of science’, addressed through contemporary science issues.

The lessons have been piloted and peer-assessed in Cheshire and Staffordshire schools (and also in New Zealand). All broadly follow a similar format and all purposely have an ICT bias, since it is this format that is most effective for the classroom practitioner to ‘pick up and run with’.

Each lesson has a starter, main activities and plenaries; all have comprehensive ‘lesson plans’ with ‘teaching notes’ along with notes on key terminology and guides to differentiation. Where possible, lessons are keyed to relevant aspects of three examination boards (AQA, Edexcel, OCR).

Each set of materials can be photocopied – or, to save paper, can be projected straight on to the whiteboard.

The lessons are in Word or PowerPoint format, so that they can be adapted as necessary.
Lesson Themes
1. Cannabis – dangerous or beneficial? This lesson opens up the continuing debate of whether this drug should be made legal to some medical patients. There is an interview followed by supporting data to support various sides of the discussion.
2. Organ transplantation – the facts and dilemmas Making a life and death decision after looking at the history of human organ transplantation. Two critically ill patients await the outcome of hopefully an evidence based decision. There is no right answer.
3. DNA discovery The forgotten female scientist Rosalind Franklin at last gets some recognition in this look at her life time works towards the discovery of DNA. Create a time line and examine the critical evidence that gives her more credit than others have.
4. Should we diet? In these days of new diets and fast food; carefully scrutinise the evidence supporting the new diets and decide which ones are healthy and which are less use. Balanced diet is also revisited. A fun intro from Jamie Oliver.
5. Who did it? (Forensic Science) A crime has been committed and all the evidence and police statements are available. Use forensic science and assessment of the materials available to you to solve the crime.
6. New medicines After examining the sad case of Thalidomide, a drug used to prevent morning sickness, pupils go on to look at drug trialling and the pros and cons of testing on various animals. This one always causes a stir.
7. Siting an aluminium smelter An important raw material can be mass produced on an island; however there is a problem as to where it should be located. This is a whole class role play activity – given all the evidence, a map and top advisors.
8. Alternative sources of energy A practical investigation into what fuel could be used instead of our depleting fossil fuels. Pupils’ carryout real research and compare ethanol against others. A concise report with all the data must be written by the end.
9. Global warming – is it real? After seeing the effects of Venus on a probe sent from Earth; pupils look at real facts on our climate change and decide if Earth will gradually become the next Venus – many pieces of evidence, but which are relevant?
10. Chemical warfare – are you protected? Environments can be toxic to man – biohazards, dangerous chemicals and radiation are all potentially lethal. What types of material are available to us and how can we produce a suit to keep us safe? – design the suit and see.
11. Towards a theory for formation of the Earth’s crust A look at the how the Earth’s crust came about. Examining and challenging old and new hypotheses as to the origin of our planet’s surface. Pupils have all the facts and must support arguments with correct data.
12. Building the periodic table A brief look at its history and then make it yourself. Given physical properties and electron configurations piece together a simplified table. This exercise gives pupils a full understanding of how it all fits together.
13. The Martian colony On evidence(s) obtained, what alternative energy sources can we utilise on the ‘red planet’? If we destroy planet Earth, Mars may need to be colonised. Examine carefully the facts now and compare to those of 1912.
14. Journey to the centre of the Earth There have been many weird and wonderful suggestions at what lies beneath our feet. Can science allow us to predict which of the ideas put forward is correct? Seismic waves or a very long drill are required.
15. Are mobile phones bad for your health? Does this must have commodity have side effects? If not the mobile itself – surely the transmitter masts can cause serious harm. Examine the evidence and make a decision on where to locate one in the community.
16. Has the Universe always been there? The big question. Pupils are allowed to view all the evidence of how it all began. Given the major theories that have been put forward can we really prove this puzzle and answer the question?
17. Waves of war (RADAR) A fun interactive war game (no one gets hurt!) The Reds take on the Blues – An island’s independence is at stake. How can the invention of RADAR affect its outcome? Pupils really enjoy this one.
18. Car crash safety! Examine the science behind car design and having gained all the facts design a car for yourself. This lesson brings home Newton’s 2nd Law and gives the pupils some experience of how to decipher graphs.
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