Chris George reviews this Key Stage 4 science resource

Composites: designing materials for the future
Gatsby SEP
London: Gatsby SEP 2008 | Pp63 | £6.00 | ISBN 978 1 90 135178 1
Reviewed by Chris George

Cover of Clever composites

This is a well-written book and useful resource for students and teachers of Key Stage 4 science. Links to the new GCSE Science specifications offered by each of the exam boards are clearly stated so that it is obvious where teachers could use this book in their teaching.

The book presents a range of activities using everyday materials to help students understand the properties of composite materials and learn about their applications. The ideas are laid out in a readable format and the illustrations enhance the explanation, rather than being purely cosmetic (a worryingly regular occurrence in many new chemistry textbooks). In addition to the basic definitions needed at GCSE, each activity has background information to enable a teacher to extend the curriculum ideas to challenge their students.

Each activity has a learning objective, timings, background notes and a list of resources required as well as a basic risk assessment so that they can be easily inserted into any lesson plan or scheme of work. The student worksheets are well written and are easy to follow. The students are posed a question at the beginning of each topic and they have to make the relevant observations during the practical activity to answer questions at the end of the worksheet. The book has a good glossary at the end and useful suggested further reading, as well as details on where you can buy all of the materials needed to do the activities.

I will be using this text when I teach composite materials with my Year 10 students. I have already used the spaghetti experiment with my Year 13s as an extension to polymers covered in A-level chemistry. This book, along with other titles produced by the Science Enhancement Programme (SEP), could also be used as a source of project ideas for science clubs at Key Stage 3. 

Note: science teachers and technicians in UK secondary schools can join the SEP Teacher Associates scheme for free and get access to electronic versions of this and other SEP resources through the SEP website. 

Related Links

 Science Enhancement Programme 

Supports science education in the UK