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‘Materials’ doesn’t sound all that exciting to begin with but there are all sorts of fascinating and thought provoking activities which can be undertaken if a range of materials samples is available.

The study of materials is really at the heart of all science because we need to make things in order to live and make progress. We use a vast number of different materials in our daily lives and each one has something special about it which makes it suitable for that particular job.

New materials are being developed constantly as new places are explored eg. the Planets, and new science and engineering challenges are met. People are very inventive and as new ways of doing things are devised this drives the need for new and different materials.

We mustn’t forget ‘biological’ materials and medicines. We are made from lots of different materials eg. bone and muscle. We also have some very special materials in our bodies such as the very strong and hard material from which our teeth are made and the very soft transparent material from which our eye lenses are made. A long time ago people used plant materials to make cures for illnesses and these days some of those cures are still used and work very well. Things have moved on though and today medicines are made in special hospital laboratories from biological materials and special chemical materials.

I recommend using kits of materials, eg. shoebox size, which can be added to over the years and which contain samples of materials and objects covering the range: Wood, Metal, Plastic, Textiles, Ceramics(stone, glass, pottery).
Items such as: corks, marbles, pebbles, thick copper wire, copper pipe, aluminium foil, string, foam rubber, cotton, polythene, steel bolts, coins, paper fasteners, card, paper, rubber, balloon, tracing paper etc. are easy to find and essential samples to have.
Equal sized samples of materials are very useful so if possible obtain samples of wood, metal and plastic in rod form of equal length and diameter. Rods of length 100mm and diameter 6mm are excellent for various heat and mass experiments.

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