Posts Tagged ‘primary sciences’


IMG_0677So then, on to identification of some common leaves… Today we’re tackling some species that belong in the same genus and are often confused: the Norway Maple and the sycamore.

In fact, our heading is really a trick question; these are both technically Maples, sharing the genus Acer. They are also relatively common, frequently planted in school grounds, and you are likely to come across them during your Autumn leaf searches.


Norway Maple

The picture above shows a Norway Maple leaf on the left and a Sycamore leaf on the right. The main difference is that the Norway Maple has a significantly more jagged edge, and a glossier surface. In fact, although not the same species, it looks very similar to the Maple leaf on the Canadian flag. In looking at the full trees, Sycamores also tend to grow higher.

In Autumn, the leaves become much easier to tell apart. Norway Maple leaves are some of the first to change  colour, turning a blazing scarlet that illuminates streets, parks and woodlands. There’s a dark side to this beauty; actuall,y this red pigment is produced as a side-effect of something called allelopathy. This is the scientific name for a sneaky trick the tree has up its sleeve to fend off competition for resources from nearby trees. Norway maples produce and release chemicals to hinder the growth of nearby saplings. The blood-red pigments are merely a by-product of this.

Sycamore leaves never turn red. They usually go a blotchy green-yellow. This sample is also adorned with black spots; rather than a consequence of autrumn colour changes, this is actually a fungus that becomes an increasingly common sight. Although it doesn’t look so nice, and the trees probably aren’t too happy about it, spotting this is actually a positive sign. The fungus can only flourish in very clean air, so it’s a great environmental indicator for air quality.



(OPAL have some tree health surveys based around this that you can do in your school grounds).

So, in summary; sycamores grow taller, and their leaves turn yellow. Norway maples turn red, are a bit selfish, and have glossier leaves. Both trees share the ‘helicopter’ keys beloved by children and so useful when teaching seed dispersal, so it;s worth getting to know their names.

Before we go, there’s one more maple tree to be mentioned: the Field Maple is smaller and less showy than both of the others. Sometimes it is used as a hedging plant. It’s leaves are smaller and more rounded, and turn yellow rather than red. It too produces ‘helicopter’ keys, but they are much smaller.


Field Maple


Subject Knowledge Booster – species focus

As well as specific school-orientated resources, we’ve started updating our ‘UK Wildlife’ pages with useful subject knowledge. Over time, lots of different species will be added there. Now and again, some especially useful or interesting examples will be featured on the main blog page, too. With so many ‘classic examples’ of organisms, as dictated by the curriculum or just their preponderance in popular consciousness, we often forget some of the great examples lurking on our own doorsteps and back gardens. Such examples are nice to throw in to remind kids that, for instance, camouflage isn’t just a distant process exclusive to far-away chameleons and polar bears. The fact that there are examples that they might actually be able to go and find can really help to engage them. In addition to the photographs, the species will be featured in fact-files  use these as you wish, for your own reference, to give to children for research tasks, or as a reading comprehension resource.

To kick things off, and to fit in with the new Butterflies 101 page, here’s a nice example of a camouflaged species native to our shores…



Callophrys rubi

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The Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi) is often overlooked. Our only majorly green butterfly, it is about the size of a thumbnail. It’s not really rare, although according to Butterfly Conservation, last year’s sodden summer caused numbers to drop 68%. What it is, is easily ignored. In fact, the Green Hairstreak’s camouflage is two-fold. The upper side of its wings are a dingy brown, making it inconspicuous and hard to follow in flight. When it settles, it always keeps its wings closed, the green being a good match for the hawthorn leaves it is fond of perching on. Keen sunbathers, the butterflies tilt themselves toward the sun so that their wings absorb the maximum amount of spring sunshine. As they do so, the iridescence of their wings makes them seem to change from a gold-ish green at one  extreme angle to almost turquoise at the other.

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A charming little butterfly, with its tiny teddy-bear face, you can catch it on heathland and moorland across the country from April to June. The examples below are from the Longshaw moors in Derbyshire.

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Related resources

More information on the Green Hairstreak at the superb Butterfly Conservation-affiliated website Uk Butterflies:

Here is an abbreviated factfile that you could use…green hairstreak factfile


It can take a while to get your ahead around what the changes to the science curriculum actually involve. There are undeniably some seismic shifts to the ways we have become accustomed to teaching and learning Primary Science. Whole topics, traditional favourites such as sound, forces and changing materials, have either been shifted several year groups, or been removed entirely. Other units, such as ‘Evolution and Inheritance’, and the study of Scientists’ biographies, are totally new.

In other ways, there is much that remains familiar. One might postulate that certain key objectives have been rewritten, or units renamed, purely to distance the new curriculum from the old, as their content remains virtually unchanged. Other units offer slight shifts in focus or small adjustments to content. What there is consistently across the units, however, is greater emphasis on subject knowledge. ‘Name and identify…’ is a phrase that crops up many times throughout the key stages.

The main changes you need to know about across the whole curriculum are about the rebranding of strands. The former Sci1, based on science skills, is now rebranded as the concept of “Working Scientifically”. as before, this is meant to underpin the entire science curriculum, but there is perhaps a special focus on the use of science talk, as well as experiments and investigations. Sci 2, 3 and 4 modules are now incorporated under the simpler Biology, Chemistry and Physics headings.

At a more specific level, changes are numerous. To help make things a bit more digestible, we are preparing some grids to show comparisons between the 2000 curriculum QCA schemes of work and the draft curriculum objectives. These will provide a year-by-year summary of what’s in, what’s out and what has changed slightly.

How to use this resource…

Each grid is for one year group, and has 4 columns. The first column shows the outgoing QCA units for that year, and the key learning points. The next column, in bold, is the objectives for the draft curriculum. These are linked, as closely as possible, to the QCA units they match best. Columns 3 and 4 offer annotations for what has been added and removed, respectively.

I hope that’s clear enough; we’re open to suggestions on how to present this information, so if you think it could be made clearer, please do leave a comment. The grids will be posted one at a time over the next few days, followed by some summaries for each key stage. To kick things off, here is a summary of the Y1 Science changes. Y2 and KS1 summary to follow tomorrow!

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