Thursday, October 25, 2018

Oil for Beginners

Full details of the activities can be found in the CIEC resource 'Oil for Beginners' which can be downloaded from

The activities in this resource tell a simple story of oil, beginning with its recovery from beneath the sea bed, to its uses. The activities ‘Hard or soft?’ and ‘Making Holes’ would provide a real-life context to teach the materials strand of the science curriculum for Year 1 and Year 2, with excellent links to design and technology.      

The Activity: Hard or soft?
  • Children are asked to discuss the meanings of the words 'soft' and 'hard' and are then provided with a range of common materials, such as sponge, rubber, clay, soil, sand, cardboard, stone, cardboard etc to help extend their discussion further.
  • Children are challenged to sort the objects into ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ categories and encouraged to suggest ‘tests’ that might help them with their classification, such as scratching each object with a finger nail.
  • Confusion of categories will be addressed through further discussion and clarification. Young children often confuse properties such as ‘softness’ with ‘flexibility’ or ‘smoothness’.
  • During the activity, there are plenty of opportunities to think and talk about things, such as: How will you sort things which are soft or hard? • Why are some things soft? • Why are some things hard? • What do we use soft things for? • What do we use hard things for?
  • Children will consolidate their learning by exploring hard and soft materials in the classroom. They could sort items into P.E. hoops and learn to place items with both properties in the intersection of hoops.

The Activity: Making holes
  • Children learn that underneath the soft sand of the sea bed there is hard rock. This hard rock must be drilled through in order to reach the oil.

This image shows a 'Derrickhand' handling the upper end of a series of connected pipes as it is hoisted out or lowered into the hole.
  • Children will then use their knowledge about ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ properties to explore the effectiveness of a variety of tools (nail and hammer, scissors, junior drill, pencil, hole punch etc) to make holes in different materials.
  • Children investigate making holes in each material provided, using their suggested methods. They should decide which methods children can be attempted safely, and which methods need adult supervision.
  • Children can further their understanding of classification of objects and materials according to their properties by suggesting which tool is the 'best' for making holes in each material and why.
  • During the activity, there are plenty of opportunities to talk and think about things, such as: Which tool could make holes in the most materials? Why? • Which tool could make the least holes? Why? • Which tools were made from hard materials? • What do you think you would need to make holes in bricks or rocks?
Activity sheet 7 can be used as both prediction and recording sheet.
     Links to the National Curriculum for Science:
Y1: Everyday materials
  • distinguish between an object and the material from which it is made
  • describe the simple physical properties of a variety of everyday materials
Y2: Uses of everyday materials:
  • identify and compare the suitability of a variety of everyday materials, including wood, metal, plastic, glass, brick, rock, paper and cardboard for particular uses
  • find out how the shapes of solid objects made from some materials can be changed by squashing, bending, twisting and stretching

Working scientifically:
  • ask simple questions
  • observe closely, using simple equipment
  • perform simple tests
  • using their observations and ideas to suggest answers to questions


Key Stage 1

  • select from and use a range of tools and equipment to perform practical tasks [for example, cutting, shaping, joining and finishing]
  • select from and use a wide range of materials and components, including construction materials, textiles and ingredients, according to their characteristics