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Working scientifically – Superheroes and pirates (KS1)

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By Gillian Ravenscroft

Explore an aspect of the new Working Scientifically strand of the Science curriculum, using fun classroom experiments.

Many of us may once have primarily linked the concept of practical investigation in science with the carrying out of fair tests. We need to bear in mind however, that this is now just one of a variety of enquiry types children are expected to experience.

The nature, process and methods of science set out in the new Curriculum state that pupils should be introduced to: ‘Observing over time; pattern seeking; identifying, classifying and grouping; comparative and fair testing (controlled investigations); and researching using secondary data’

We therefore need to include a range of enquiries related to each Programme of Study topic. This series will focus on the progression of Working Scientifically skills through practical investigation in both key stages: beginning here with identification, classification and observation skills in Key Stage 1.

Superheroes: Costume PowerPoint

Download National Curriculum references for this activity.

  • Selection of materials: plastic, tin foil, paper, cardboard, swatches of fabrics
  • Handheld magnifiers
  • Three transparent plastic beakers
  • Elastic bands
  • Trays and paper towels to catch spills
  • Water and paint


Display images/appropriate video footage of recognisable superheroes. Focus on how the characters are dressed and ask children to suggest what their clothes might be made of. Encourage pupils to consider actions which superheroes regularly perform (such as climbing walls or leaping from buildings) and guide them to consider properties of suitable clothing. Make a list of their ideas.

Main activities

Provide groups with a variety of materials and hand held magnifiers. Check they can identify all the materials – correcting misconceptions where necessary – and discuss observations regarding properties.

Play a sorting hoop game: ask each group to place all the materials with a particular property inside the hoop within a specified time limit. Check and compare, encouraging discussion about selections. Challenge groups to choose their own criteria for sorting and explain their ideas to the rest of the class.

Talk about how superheroes could keep dry in the rain. Identify ‘waterproof’ as a desirable property for a superhero outfit and carry out an investigation to find the most appropriate material.
  • Stretch three swatches of fabric across the tops of plastic beakers and secure with elastic bands.
  • Measure out small amounts of coloured water (easier to see) and ask children to pour over each swatch.
  • Compare amounts of water that drip through by standing straws against beakers and trimming these to the height of the water inside each one.
  • Cut enough straws to each length for all children to use in their recording.

Superhero waterproof cape

Hand out copies of Activity sheet ‘Superhero waterproof cape’. Ask children to stick a small sample of the materials they tested in each box alongside an appropriate length of straw. Talk about what the longest/shortest straws tell us about waterproofing and encourage children to recommend a material.


Remind children of the list of properties made earlier and play a ‘yes’/‘no’ game to identify a mystery material through asking questions about possible properties.

Pirate treasure

Download National Curriculum references for this activity.

  • Large box resembling a pirate’s treasure chest
  • Selection of ‘treasures’ from a range of materials including rock, plastic, wood, metal (necklaces, beads, buttons, coins, bottle tops, crystals, stones etc)
  • Small trays
  • Handheld magnifiers
  • Unifix cubes
  • Balance scales


Open the pirate’s chest and gradually unpack the ‘treasures’ into smaller trays. Identify objects and encourage children to suggest which material each one could be made of. Make a list of their ideas.

Main activities

Distribute the trays to groups of children and ask them to sort treasure according to properties such as shiny/dull, rough/smooth and so on. Check that they can correctly identify materials and explain their criteria for sorting.

Challenge groups to find something else in the classroom that is made of the same material as one of their treasures. Take photographs of the objects they identify, display on the interactive whiteboard and compare the suitability of different properties in a variety of materials.

Encourage children to consider what might happen to the pirate treasure in a shipwreck. Compare metal with plastic coins and shiny pebbles with plastic gems. Encourage pupils to consider which ones are heavier and might sink.

Using balance scales, measure how many unifix blocks different types of treasure weigh. Stack blocks into columns, lay examples of treasure at the bottom of each one and place in a row to make a visual block graph. Photograph and display the graph, challenging children to identify the heaviest and lightest treasures. You could extend this further using small weights or digital scales to record a measurement in grams.

Pirate treasure

Demonstrate what happens to the objects when they are put into water. Use the Activity sheet, ‘Pirate treasure’, to record measurements and observations about floating and sinking.


Play a ‘yes’/‘no’ game to identity a mystery material by asking questions about possible properties. Invite pupils to ask you questions. Then choose a child to think of another object – the successful guesser having a turn after that.