Tag Archives: discussion

A Futurecade Review

My name is Essence H. and I am 14 years old. Today I am writing a review on Futurecade digital games as part of my work experience at the Science Museum.

After playing all 4 games, I concluded that the one I enjoyed the most was ‘Robo Lobster’ which is about robots destroying sea mines so humans don’t have to. I enjoyed this game the most because I found it quite easy to get into and a fun game to play. I also find the idea of robots taking over the jobs of humans quite interesting as these games are based on real scientific research happening today. Although I enjoyed ‘Robo lobster’ the most, if you actually link all these games to real life and consider the idea of them being actual scientific research, then they are all interesting in their own way.

Robo-Lobster is about using robots to destroy sea mines

Robo-Lobster is about using robots to destroy sea mines

In my opinion, starting a lesson off by playing Futurecade could be a good idea because it can act as an icebreaker or introduction into the topic, as it would be something new. Or it would be a good idea to have Futurecade at the end to conclude the lesson- because students would already have prior knowledge of the topic which they would have learnt that lesson, to link in with the games so the understanding and interest level may be higher.

Another point is, especially reaching KS4 like I have in year 10, learning can become slightly stagnant and it’s quite easy to lose interest and focus in a lesson. The idea of learning through games is something different and more fun than a whole lesson of your teacher explaining something verbally.

To any teachers interested in using Futurecade to help teach a topic, I would definitely say go with it! I think it’s a good idea particularly with KS3 students to help them examine the ethical and moral implications of using and applying science.  I would say a reasonable timescale to let the children spend on Futurecade would be about 10-15 minutes and include it in maybe 2 lessons (not more than that because once you’ve played them a few times the interest level of the games drops slightly). If they wish to play the games for longer, they can always access it for themselves at home which can lead to further independent study.

In conclusion I approve of Futurecade and definitely think we should include lots more games to help link in across the school’s curriculum!

Thanks for your time Essence – hopefully you’ll fly the Futurecade banner back in school! Futurecade has been shortlisted for a BETT award in the ‘secondary digital content’ category, which we’re thrilled about. If you’re using Futurecade in the classroom make sure you check out our support notes which are packed with background science, lesson ideas and facilitation questions for discussion.

Let us know how you use them!

Jokes business

Using humour in your teaching can help you engage your students- that’s nothing new. But what about LITERALLY using humour?

Check out my favourite (frankly, awful) selection of science jokes below…

 -Biology is the only science in which multiplication is the same thing as division.

-Did you hear about the famous microbiologist who traveled in thirty different countries and learned to speak six languages? He was a man of many cultures.

-Q: What is the fastest way to determine the sex of a chromosome?
A: Pull down its genes!

-When a year 3 pupil was asked to cite Newton’s first law, she said, “Bodies in motion remain in motion, and bodies at rest stay in bed unless their mothers call them to get up.”

-What did the male stamen say to the female pistil?
I like your “style”

-Two atoms were walking across a road when one of them said, “I think I lost an electron!” “Really!” the other replied, “Are you sure?” “Yes, I ‘m absolutely positive!”

Image sclick.net

OK, I might have you shaking your head- but you probably had a little chuckle too! If your students get the joke, it’s likely they understand the science behind it. If they don’t, its a good way to  see where they might need to brush up a little.

A quick google search will bring up loads of science jokes and humour. You can experiment using jokes as discussion starters, or even end a lesson with one to consolidate what you’ve covered. Or perhaps you just want to make your students laugh (or groan)!

Happy LOLs :)

Still life with science

Powerful images can be great stimuli to use in the classroom- they can hook in students, generate opinions and help give them some knowledge to bring to a discussion. Some great galleries to find strong scientific pictures are Wellcome images, Science photo library and  galleries like Popsci’s most amazing science images.

Prettier than it really is: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Prettier than it should be: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

On a different level, you could even get your students to seek out science in the world around them and take their own pictures to use in the classroom – which could be a nice way to engage them with a topic and get them thinking and talking science outside the classroom.  With mobile phone cameras being so good now, your students will already have the tools they need at their fingertips.

If you do try this out, your students can even enter their images into the Young Scientists Journal photography competition- it’s open to anyone aged 18 and under. The categories are energy, camouflage, science behind the Olympics and the result of science. Find out more here!

Happy snapping :)

Fabulous films

In our mission to share useful resources with you, the time has come to talk about the Royal Institution’s  brilliant Ri Channel- packed with engaging videos on loads of different themes.  Beautifully made films tell tales of leaping lizards and criminal penguins, mending a broken heart and what’s inside your head.

What's inside your head?

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Plus scientists talk science (of course)  in the lecture series.

Wonderful. Enjoy!

Fueling a biofuels discussion?

Planning a discussion about biofuels?

Veggie power?

Veggie power! Will biofuels save the world?

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has a set of teaching resources you can use if you are getting your students to explore the topic.

They have actually split the material up into 2 lessons’ worth: one where your students familiarise themselves with various forms of biofuel, and the second which involves a role-play exercise about the impacts of biofuel production on countries around the world.

The resources contain a wealth of content such as case studies, important questions, and background science, plus helpful scaffold material for presenters, all of which you may find useful even if you don’t follow the lesson plans to the letter or don’t have time to dedicate 2 lessons to the topic.

So take a look at what is available, as you can really adapt the material to your needs.

If you are looking for a way to add a bit of ‘spice’ to the discussion, throw in some Talk Science techniques- for example, you may like to use our powerful question generator to help you come up with some great hook questions that make the topic of biofuels directly relevant to your students, or begin and conclude the discussion with a vote or a human barometer exercise to encourage your students to voice their own opinions in the debate.

Good luck!

Think tiny

Nanotechnology is a hot topic, and there is a wealth of information online- we have just found a useful site that covers the main things, from the definition of nanotechnology to some of its applications and risks: 10 things you should know about nanotechnology. You can get your students to explore it for research prior to a discussion on the topic… but it’s quite text-heavy, so if you need to lighten things up, why not use Punk Science’s Nanotechnology Song to hook your students in first!

Artists interpretation of carbon nanotubules

And if you want to do some demonstrations or activities in the classroom, this site contains some cool experiments you or your students can do quickly, with instructional videos. Mmmm, liquid crystals…

KS3 genetics and brain science

Hot off the press! We have just launched a brand-new series ‘Genetics and Brain Science’ on the Science Museum’s Educators website, where you can find a range of free KS3 and KS4 classroom activities. The resources support you in teaching contemporary science and How Science Works, and relate to our very popular Who am I? gallery.

To start off, we would like to present two activities that allow your students to explore the science of genetics:

Identical twins exploring the Who am I? gallery

1. In ‘Do you want to know a secret?’ your students work in research groups and discuss the issues surrounding genetic testing. Depending on the choices the groups make at the end of the session, they may find out the secret that their box holds…

2. By adopting a Thing in our fun game Thingdom, your students will learn about genetic inheritance and selective breeding. Can they breed new Things that have all the characteristics they want? Use the teaching film and student sheet to bring the Things alive in your classroom!

Watch this space…we will add more ‘Genetics and Brain Science’ resources shortly. And, as always, if you try these out, we’d love to hear about it! Talk.science@sciencemuseum.org.uk

Anna P

Anyone for Mars?

The planet Mars is the closest we have in our solar system to being called hospitable (well, after our own beloved Earth)- it has surface gravity, an atmosphere, carbon dioxide, minerals and most importantly, water. But would you want to take a one-way trip over there?

The desert-like landscape of Mars


Some scientists, like Dirk Schulze-Makuch, speculate that to safeguard the human species against catastrophe on Earth, within 2 decades we could start sending over small groups of colonists to start living on Mars. Others, like Apollo 14 astronaut Ed Mitchell, say we are not ready to be discussing living on the red planet. NASA is not going anywhere near the idea, but Schulze-Makuch claims that the private sector may be more interested in investing in the missions.

After all, humans are dreamers-of-what-could-be, and pushing the boundaries is what drives scientific exploration. After exploring the surface of planets, the next step would be visiting in person- think of the incredible technology we would develop to deal with travel to and life in such a harsh environment.

But we haven’t even sent a human to Mars to walk on the surface, let alone try to make a life there. Which of us will be ready to literally leave their world behind and survive on an alien planet? And why should we colonize other planets anyway? If it won’t benefit the individual -and most of us remain on Earth to perish when an asteroid hits us- why should we care if the species propagates itself through the universe?

If you do decide to hold a classroom discussion around this topic, look into our Mars Mission Box as an extension activity for your students to practically explore some of the challenges to life on Mars, for example protecting ourselves against radiation. 

Good luck!

A sticky solution to pollution.

Air pollution levels in London are dangerously high and currently exceed EU recommended maximum levels. So what are we doing about it?

Car exhaust

Car exhaust is one of the causes of air pollution

Scientists have come up with a sticky solution. A layer of a special substance is being spread on roads which will literally stick polluting particles to the ground and stop them recirculation in the air.

High levels of particulate matter in the air are mainly caused by vehicle emissions and can lead to increased respiratory problems such as asthma. It is hoped this new method will reduce air pollution by 10-20%.
Is this just a quick fix solution? What about the alternatives:
changing to alternative fuels (electric, hydrogen, biofuels)
congestion charging and car free town centres;
switching to alternative forms of transport

You could get groups of students to each research one solution and then pitch them to a panel, Dragon’s Den style.

Good luck!


LHC back in business

The world’s biggest atom smasher is back on track.


iny particles zoom around the Large Hadron Collider's 27 km underground tunnel

The Large Hadron Collider was switched on this week and the last time we checked on their Twitter account it was all going well. The scientists will continue in their work to unravel our understanding of how the universe came into exisitence. The project has been beset by problems and delays since opening in 2008 but has been back up and running since mid March this year. This week should see the LHC running at half its potential power capacity.

The LHC has great discussion potential for the classroom, with many teachers having had plenty of questions from pupils who want to know if we are all going to be swallowed by a black hole created by it. (The answer is no,  in case you were worried!) The Science Museum’s Antenna team first reported on the LHC back in 2007 and put together this handy mini site with all the back ground information you need for a discussion.

Looking for ideas to kick of the discussion? Try our handy powerful question generator activity to link the topic to what your students love talking about.