Peter.D.Riley

International bestselling award-winning author Facebook Twitter

Taking science education across the world

Our future depends on exploring all the frontiers of science, on innovative technologies based on these explorations and on the development of scientific literacy in all peoples through science education.

Ettie the canal barge is sailing again

Ettie has set sail again and is on the River Scarpe in Northern France near Arras, which was one of the cities on the front line in the Great War. The river is teeming with waterfowl.

Great crested grebe

Great crested grebe

Great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus) with young on its back .

Coot on a nest

Coot on a nest

Coot (Fulica atra) on a nest. Richard, who is sailing Ettie, has never seen as many coot nests on any waterway.

Little grebe

Little grebe

Little grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) Richard has been told that there are more little grebe on this river than in the rest of France!



Australian Cockatoo, Mantis and more

My friend in Australia has sent me some more pictures of the flora and fauna to be seen there.

Little Pied Cormorant ( Microcarpo melanoleucos) - Swan River

Little Pied Cormorant ( Microcarpo melanoleucos) – Swan River

A mantis in our back garden

A mantis in our back garden

A mantis in our back garden

A mantis in our back garden

Common Skink (Lampropholis guichenoti) on our deck shades

Common Skink (Lampropholis guichenoti) on our deck shades

Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo - male (Calyptorhynchus banksii) aka Bank's or Banksian  Black Cockatoo

Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo – male (Calyptorhynchus banksii) aka Bank’s or Banksian Black Cockatoo

New Holland Honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae) our garden

New Holland Honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae) our garden

Large Grasshopper on our garden fence

Large Grasshopper on our garden fence



Testing seeds from the International Space Station

Settle Primary School are taking part in the Rocket Science Experiment being run by the Royal Horticultural Society and the European Space Agency (see the end of this post for a link to find out more about the experiment).

They are making a fair test in which they have planted 100 seeds that have been in space and 100 seeds that have stayed on Earth. They are germinating the seeds and growing the seedlings in exactly the same conditions and recording data to send for analysis by leading scientists at the Royal Horticultural Society and the European Space Agency.

Setting up the pots of compost

Setting up the pots of compost

Planting the seeds

Planting the seeds

Setting out the labels

Setting out the labels

Signs of germination

Signs of germination

For more information about this project go to https://schoolgardening.rhs.org.uk/Competitions/Rocket-Science-Experiment-Overview.



Bring your habitat hat and join me in the rainforest

Visiting the African rainforest

Visiting the African rainforest

In my new video, made to support the Habitats book in my Ways Into Science series of books, I pay a visit to four rainforests around the world and describe some of the animals and plants that can be found there. All thanks to a bit of movie magic!

There are freely downloadable support materials to go with the video including a stop and chat sheet, quiz and experiment report sheet. The support materials can be found here.



Support materials for the first two Ways Into Science books now online

Recently I’ve been working on support materials for my Ways Into Science book series. These materials are freely available from the site and consist of:

A video to complement each book, supported by a “Stop and chat” sheet to use in the classroom and stimulate discussion with your students, a quiz for each book (with an answer sheet for the teacher) and finally an experiment report sheet for students to report the results of their experiments.

As an example, here is the video to accompany Ways Into Science – Plants:


The materials for the first two books are now available and can be found using the links below, the materials for the other books in the series will be released over the next month or two.

Support materials for Ways Into Science – Plants
Support materials for Ways Into Science – Everyday Materials



Science Week 2080?

I was invited into a school recently to present a science-themed assembly for Science Week. Afterwards the school would disperse to their classrooms (science labs for the day) and enjoy a wide range of science activities and experiments that the staff had put together.

For the assembly I took the theme of “let’s take a little look at the history of science and technology.” I began with the Ancient Greeks setting up their ideas about the universe, elements and strangely shaped stones, then moved on to Galileo, the alchemists and chemists and discovering what fossils really are, then moved forwards to the twentieth century.

I was born in the middle of it. I decided to show how a piece of technology (the product of scientific research) had changed during my life time. I chose the telephone because where I lived our telephones did not even have a dial. If you wanted to call someone up you lifted the receiver and a voice would say “number please”. As an eight year old I would say “Colne 238” (my dad’s shop) and the voice would say “and your number” and I would say “Colne 735” (our home number) and the telephone in the shop would begin to ring.

My Dads Shop

My Dad’s Shop in the 1940s – 50s

It was a few years before Colne telephone exchange became automated and we got a dial. I showed the children a telephone without and with a dial and moved onto the first mobile phones that I saw when I went to London to see my publishers. These phones were carried in a large shoulder bag and about the size of a brick with a long aerial that had to be pulled out to get a signal. I then presented a selection of mobile phones and ended with one my eldest granddaughter owns – it is inside a glove!

Telephones, then and now

Telephones, then and now

To change the perspective from the past to the future, I finished the assembly by saying “I can confidently say that I am the oldest person in this room and when the youngest person here is as old as I am, it won’t be 2020, 2030, 2040, 2050, 2060 or even 2070. It will be 2080 and what will science week be like in schools then?”



Support materials for Ways into Science – What would you like to see?

I am currently developing on-line support materials for each of the books in my Ways into Science series which is aimed at five to seven year olds (Key Stage 1 in the UK and Kindergarten/Grade 1 in the USA).

There is a growing interest in on-line support for educational books. It helps readers develop and use their computer skills at the same time as they develop their skills in reading and using book features such as the contents list, glossary and index.

Over the coming weeks each book in the series will receive its own set of support materials. This comprises a short film with a stop and chat sheet to use with it, a quiz, and an experiment report worksheet to use with activities in the books. All these will be freely available to download from my website.

The first two books to receive on-line support will be Plants and Everyday Materials. The materials will be found on the page dedicated to the Ways Into Science series, and will also be linked to from the Teacher Resources section.

This is an evolving project so I would really love to receive feedback from teachers and home-schoolers about what kinds of materials would most meet your needs in lessons.

So contact me at peter@peterdriley.com and let me know what kinds of materials you’d like to see.



Starting Science Week With Dinosaur Alphabet

Back in 1999 Oxford University Press published my book called Dinosaur Alphabet.

Dinosaur Alphabet

Dinosaur Alphabet

It also came out as a Big Book. I used it in one of my road shows at the time and last week I was asked to do my Dinosaur Alphabet roadshow once again. This time it was with the Early Years Class at Settle Primary School. They arranged to meet me on one of their visits to The Play Barn in Settle – a children’s indoor soft play area.

In the play barn activity tent

In the play barn activity tent

As we went through the alphabet from Apatasuarus to Zephyrosaurus (the west wind lizard) we stopped off to try various activities such as catching a fish like baryonyx (we used a banana floating in a bowl of water), making sounds by resonance as Lambeosaurus might have done, discovering a nest of dinosaur eggs (ping pong balls) as made by Maiasaura and investigating the idea that the stones found in dinosaur stomachs were used to grind up food (we did a fair test with two sealed containers containing lettuce and one with a few pebbles in. After shaking them up the lettuce with the pebbles was described as a ‘green mush’).

A small herd of Lambreosaurs

A small herd of Lambeosaurs

The dinosaur stomach-shaking experiment

The dinosaur stomach-shaking experiment

We finished by chanting our way through the alphabet with me calling out each name and the children shouting it back. It was pleasing to see that today’s young children still enjoy this final activity just as much as those who must now be almost twenty!



Thinking about thinking – Bloom’s Taxonomy

Back in the 1960s when I was learning science from textbooks, the questions came at the end of the chapter. I found I had to look back into the chapter to try and answer them. Just over ten years later when I wrote my first text book, Life Science, I peppered the questions and activities all over the pages yet it still received ten excellent reviews!

By the time I came to write the Now! science series of books with John Murray in the mid 1990s (which later evolved into the Checkpoint Science books) I had tempered my enthusiasm and set the questions in the margins next to the appropriate text.

I had also thought about how and why we ask questions and in the reference section of our local library (there was no internet then) I discovered Bloom’s Taxonomy of intellectual competencies (I hope you are still with me). I used this as a framework for basing my questions which are still in the books today.

Fast forward to the twenty first century and Bloom’s taxonomy is now used as a basis of assessing how people think, often under the title of critical thinking skills. Recently I have used it in My Moving Up with Science series to help teachers and parents see examples of material which tests these skills (there is a short critical thinking section in the ‘About this book’ feature on the last page).

What are these thinking skills? The best way to find out is to use them so here we go.

(I am illustrating the process with posters which you can download from the website to use with your children.)

Reading so far, I hope you have acquired some knowledge of my thoughts

Critical Thinking Skills poster

.. and can understand how I came to use Bloom’s Taxonomy..

Critical Thinking Skills poster

.. then apply this knowledge and understanding by searching out the section on the website and analyzing the content…

Critical Thinking Skills poster

Critical Thinking Skills poster

… before evaluating the posters..

Critical Thinking Skills poster

and maybe creating a thinking corner for your children.

Critical Thinking Skills poster

 You can download the posters from the teacher resources section of the site.

Find out more about Critical Thinking Skills and Bloom’s Taxonomy.



How the Curiosity Box series came to be written

When I give talks about my writing I am always asked “Where do you get your ideas from?” As ideas come from many different things I usually give a very general answer but for my new series of books, Curiosity Box, I can be very specific.

When I was setting up the website I decided to provide free downloadable posters about the scientific method. I thought the stages in the method were best represented by a group of children doing an experiment so I constructed a storyboard on which to place the various stages.

The Scientific Method poster 1

The Scientific Method poster 2

I settled on an experiment on gravity with the children investigating the speed at which things fall. The problem was to find a way to set them off on an investigation. At the time I had been reading about how cabinets of curiosities were set up in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and eventually were developed into museums. I then thought of the things that my granddaughters collect such as pine cones and pebbles. These objects are usually left on display on a bedroom windowsill which could be thought of as a small modern take on a cabinet of curiosity.

Horse chestnuts

Here are some conkers from the curiosity box section of the website

I then thought “What if one of the children gathered all her curiosities into a box, then tripped and the curiosities fell out?” This idea worked and so became part of the story. However I was still intrigued by the idea of a curiosity box so made one up in a shoebox and visited local schools with it. The response was so positive that teachers started setting up their own class curiosity boxes. I thought perhaps a series of books about curiosities that children can easily observe might be a help so the first two titles in the Curiosity Box series are now published, two more will be out in June and two final books to complete the series published in August.

Plants

Plants

The Seashore

The Seashore



My Books

Follow the links below to find out more about my books and book series, as well as downloadable resources for teachers and parents using my books.

Books for Primary Schools
Books for Secondary Schools

Books and Resources for Teachers

Contact Me

I can be contacted in the following ways. If you have a picture for the Natural World Photo Gallery or the Science Exhibition Gallery, please send it by email.