Beetle expert Darren Mann hunting for dung beetles

Meet a scientist who digs in poo to find dung beetles!

Darren Mann, Senior Collections Manager at Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Darren Mann is a dung beetle expert who looks after a huge collection of insects at Oxford University Museum of Natural History. You can read a full interview with him in Whizz Pop Bag: INCREDIBLE INSECTS!

Darren had so many brilliant stories to share that we couldn’t fit them all in the issue, so here’s some more from the man who digs in poo to find dung beetles…

“I’ve been obsessed with insects since I was at junior school.”

In my early teens, I joined the Amateur Entomologist’s Society and through their magazine I learnt lots of new things and that there were even more books on insects! Remember, this is before the internet existed. Through this group I bought a secondhand copy of A Coleopterists’ Handbook’ – an entire book on beetles, including how to find them, and this became my instruction manual for the next few years and what got me interested in beetles.

A dung beetle in some dung! Photo: Darren Mann

“The first time I went through the entire process of collecting, preserving, and identifying specimens on my own, I felt a real sense of achievement.”

I went out again, and again, and, well you get the picture. I spent hours searching dung, finding beetles, and because I did it so much, I got quite good at finding and identifying them. I became the Warwickshire county recorder for dung beetles and their allies and found some quite rare ones, including a few species not discovered in the county before. The excitement of getting a first county record has never worn off and it is always a privilege to be the first person to find something new.

“I’ve now worked at the Oxford Museum of Natural History for over 20 years”

My favourite space is the Westwood Room, named after the first professor of Zoology at Oxford – John O. Westwood. It has an open fireplace carved with a hawkmoth and stag beetle life cycle, hanging above is a portrait of the great beetle hunter, the Reverend Canon Fowler, and it housed the British Insect collection, including all the dung beetles.

“I’m currently working on a project moving over a million British insects into a new space”

One of the museum’s major projects, supported through The National Lottery Heritage Fund is HOPE for the Future which aims to move all the British insects out of the Westwood Room and into new storerooms in shiny new pest proof cabinets. The room will then be refurbished to accommodate teaching, workshops, exhibitions and maybe even some bug handling sessions. The first stage in any large project is applying for funding, you need money to employ people and buy stuff. We spent many hours working on the application, discussing logistics, costings, and delivery plans. With over a million British insects, we needed extra help. Training and working with volunteers is an important part of my role. For this project, there was a team of twelve volunteers, counting and cataloguing the insect collection – this took quite a long time due to the sheer number of insects involved.

Moving the beetle collection. Photo: Oxford University Museum of Natural History

“I dream of going dung beetling in medieval Britain!”

Many of our insects were collected by famous entomologists from places that I have also visited. It gives you a sense of connection to the Victorian bug hunters and sometimes a little beetle envy creeps in, as many of their old haunts have been lost or the species is now almost extinct in the UK. If there is ever a time machine built, I want to go dung beetling in medieval Britain, searching the dung of the extinct Aurochs and visit Deal sandhills with Commander JJ Walker before it was developed into a golf course. 

“I also give tours at the museum”

Another aspect of my job is public engagement, talking to people about the Museum and the collections, giving behind the scenes tours and hosting visitors and researchers. I can generally manage to slip in a dung beetle anecdote or two. I get requests for help with insect identification, sometimes a blurry photograph in an e-mail, sometimes a dead ‘thing’ in a jar left at the front desk. These can be challenging, but always fun and sometimes surprising. One person contacted me with a picture of a European rhinoceros beetle found in their garden moth trap. This 5cm long beetle was probably imported with plants from Italy to the local garden centre and flew a few hundred metres to their garden. If our climate gets warmer, one day it may become established like so many other introduced insects.

Beetle expert Darren Mann talks to Whizz Pop Bang science magazine about his love of insects and how he got his job as a collections manager at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History
Darren at work. Photo: Darren Mann

“If you want to become an entomologist, enthusiasm is so important.”

You could join clubs and societies that are relevant to your interests. It helps you meet with likeminded people, gives you access to a magazine and website full of the latest news and articles, and shows prospective employers that you are dedicated to your subject, especially if you have been a member for a long time.

I have read hundreds of application forms and interviewed lots of people. Those that make it to my short list are there because their interest and enthusiasm shines through. Applying for jobs can be quite nerve wracking but never over embellish your CV or exaggerate claims at interview. If you don’t know the answer, say so and then make an educated guess. You are more likely to earn respect by being honest and showing you can apply some lateral thinking or problem-solving skills. 

The Oxford University Museum of Natural History’s incredible insect collection is free to visit – find out more here!


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Teaching teeth in year 4

Are you looking for planning resources for teaching teeth in year 4? Here’s how you can use our new downloadable teeth teaching resources to easily create memorable lessons that produce the sticky knowledge that Ofsted will be looking for…

Where to start?

Teeth should be taught before the digestive system. By year 4, most children will have lost several of their baby teeth and will be at the in-between stage with a mixture of adult teeth, baby teeth and some gaps. It’s fun to get pupils to look in a mirror and examine their own mouths! Children will already know that they have two sets of teeth. What they probably don’t know is that their adult teeth started growing while they were still a baby! They probably also don’t know how many teeth they have, what they are called and what they are used for. Our Model Mouth Lesson Pack answers all of these questions. It has been written by an experienced primary school teacher and is ideal for teaching teeth to year 4 pupils. The downloadable pack includes:

  • A teeth lesson plan
  • A PowerPoint presentation
  • Instructions for making a model mouth
  • A printable Wibble Wobble tooth game
Model Mouth lesson pack

Why build a 3D model mouth rather than asking children to label
a worksheet?

All pupils learn differently, and to create sticky knowledge children need memorable experiences. The visual and kinaesthetic learners are more likely to remember making a 3D model mouth than filling in a worksheet. They will physically make 32 teeth and mould each tooth into the correct shape. Once the models are complete, you can discuss how we keep teeth healthy. Pupils could even practise brushing their model teeth

How to evidence the lesson

If your planning isn’t enough evidence, pupils could use the Keynote app on an iPad to record themselves describing their model mouth and each tooth’s name and function. If you need evidence in their books, you could print a photo of the model and during morning work the next day, pupils could label and annotate it. This would mean that they go back over their learning from the day before, helping the knowledge to stick. Our Wibble Wobble board game is also a good way for children to revisit the subject. Knowledge organisers can be an additional tool to help remind children of previous learning, or to use as a scaffold – not for answers!

A3 vocabulary poster and Knowledge organiser

What to cover next

Pupils should then research other animals, both herbivores and carnivores, that have teeth. What similarities and differences do they notice? Do all the animals have the same number of teeth? Do they all have molars, canines and incisors? Are they called something different? Why don’t some animals have teeth? Once children start researching, they will hopefully come up with lots of questions they would like to find out the answers to. Our downloadable Animal Antics text on vipers is a good place to start.

A non-chronological report on vipers

Further investigations

We also have another year 4 downloadable lesson plan on teeth, which is an observation over time enquiry. Pupils will set up an investigation to observe eggshells in different liquids. Eggshells and teeth are both made of calcium-based compounds so this is a good visual demonstration of how some drinks can cause damage to our teeth. Our lesson plans always explain the science behind the lessons – teachers can’t remember everything!

Dissolving teeth lesson pack

How to make teeth cross-curricular

Making the model mouth links to art and sculpture. There are also lots of ways to embed the pupil’s science learning in your school day. Using science texts in guided reading or whole class reading sessions is an easy way for children to delve further into the subject matter and acquire more knowledge. We have three reading comprehension packs for year 4:

We also have a bank of spectacular science images that are perfect for promoting discussion. They feature a striking scientific image, along with a couple of questions. As you click through the PowerPoint presentation, the answers to the questions will be revealed. Pupils should try to answer the questions as you go. The presentation to use for teeth is called ‘Smile crocodile’. It only takes ten minutes so it can slot into those awkward times in the school day – for example, straight after lunch while you are waiting for everyone to come in.

Spectacular science image

Whizz Pop Bang magazine and teaching resources are brilliant ways to enhance your school’s science teaching:

  • We provide downloadable science lesson plans, PowerPoint presentations, memorable lessons and science reading comprehensions written by primary school teachers.
  • Whizz Pop Bang teaching resources link to the National Curriculum, ensuring correct coverage.
  • All of our resources are year group specific, ensuring progression between the years.
  • We make cross-curricular links to other subjects, such as English, Maths, History, Geography, Art, Design and Technology and PSHE.

Prices from as little as £190 per year for a copy of Whizz Pop Bang magazine through the post each month and whole-school access to our ever-growing library of downloadable teaching resources, with unlimited teacher logins.

We’ve also just launched a new individual membership option so teachers and home educators can access all of our amazing downloadable resources for just £20 for the whole year

“Using Whizz Pop Bang school resources has enabled investigations to be an integral part of my science planning. I now have investigations and experiments throughout my planning rather than just at the end. The lessons are easy to resource and the pack has everything I need to teach the lesson so it saves me time as well!” Louise Hampson, Year 3 teacher 


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Whizz Pop bang Dinosaur head

Colossal coprolites

Have you been reading about DINO GIANTS in Whizz Pop Bang magazine? Then you probably want to watch a video of the biggest dinosaur poos ever discovered!

Fossilised animal poos are known as coprolites. They are full of clues about what dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures liked to eat. The largest coprolite ever found was a Tyrannosaurus rex poo. It is full of crunched-up bones.

The largest collection of coprolites is owned by George Frandsen in the USA. In 2017, he had 1,277 fossilised dino poos, including the largest ever found! See him showing off the record-breaking dino poo here:

Dinosaur cover
Find out more in Whizz Pop Bang # 65: DINO GIANTS!


In this mega edition of Whizz Pop Bang, we’re looking at some of the most awesome creatures ever to have set foot on this planet – discover gigantic dinosaurs that were taller than houses, humungous flying reptiles that ruled the skies and petrifying prehistoric predators that patrolled the seas!

There are loads of dino activities for you to try at home – craft a balancing stegosaurus, create your own eco-friendly fossil dig kits and cast a replica dinosaur tooth!

You can also cut out and make roar-some paper dinosaurs that walk down slopes and discover the biggest dinosaur ever known, Argentinosaurus, which laid eggs as big as coconuts! Find out how animatronic dinosaurs work, meet a palaeontologist who solves the mysteries of how dinosaurs lived and read about William Buckland and Mary Morland, who studied the first dinosaur fossils. You can even take our Silly Science quiz, ‘Which dinosaur are you?!’ to discover what your life could have been like in the Cretaceous period!

It’s a truly colossal edition of Whizz Pop Bang!


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Whizz Pop Bang: Sweet Dreams issue is all about the science of sleep

The dreams of astronaut Helen Sharman

Listen to Britain’s first ever astronaut, Helen Sharman, talking about dreaming in and about space!

This video animation, What do astronauts dream of?, was made by the Royal Institution as part of a fantastic series called A Place Called Space.

The RI say: “In 1991, Helen Sharman became the first Briton in space; in this animation she shares a dream she has about returning to space, and talks about what it’s like to gaze down on the earth from above.”

Find out more about the science of sleep in SWEET DREAMS – it’s in our shop now!

Whizz Pop Bang: Sweet Dreams issue is all about the science of sleep
Whizz Pop Bang: Sweet Dreams issue is all about the science of sleep

Did you know that you’ll spend up to a third of your life happily dozing? It sounds pretty relaxing, but actually, sleep isn’t as uneventful as you might imagine. Inside this dreamy edition of Whizz Pop Bang, you’ll find out what goes on inside your sleeping brain, discover ten animals with weird and wonderful ways to sleep and learn all about snoring. You can also build a hibernation station for sleepy wildlife, race around the clock in a pull-out board game and experience the chilling body temperature of a hibernating hamster!

Meet a turtle expert who tells us how these hibernating reptiles breathe through their bottoms, create your own sleep diary, snuggle up with hibernating bears, find out how sleep scientist Eugene Aserinsky discovered some dreamy sleep secrets and reduce Halloween waste by making an upcycled bat garland.

That’s a lot to pack in before bedtime!

Click here to read everything you need to know about Whizz Pop Bang – the awesome science magazine for kids!

Whizz Pop Bang is a top-quality, gender-neutral, advert-free science magazine for families everywhere. Each issue is packed with experiments, activities, amazing facts, puzzles, jokes, riddles and more. Find out more here!


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On the move cover

The secrets of stinging nettles: natural navigation with Tristan Gooley

The August edition of Whizz Pop Bang: ON THE MOVE is about amazing migrations and is packed with the science behind all sorts of incredible journeys made by animals and humans!

Inside, we chat to Tristan Gooley, a natural navigator who looks for nature’s clues and works out how they can help us to find our way. Learning more about this fascinating skill is a brilliant way to engage children with the natural word – keep reading to learn a nifty tricky you can teach them when you’re outdoors together.

We asked Tristan to explain a little about his unusual job:

“Every single plant, every single animal, even every single cloud is telling us something about what’s going on around us. I’m a nature detective, trying to solve each clue. I don’t look for specific things that are interesting or amazing: instead, I wonder what the signs around me can reveal. Sometimes it’s a plant showing me which way is north, or a stinging nettle telling me I’m near a town. It’s so much fun!”
Tristan Gooley in Whizz Pop Bang: ON THE MOVE

Tristan Gooley, Natural Navigator

If you’re wondering how to keep children entertained on a long walk or how to help your child connect with nature, here’s a tip from Tristan all about the secrets of stinging nettles:

If you teach children a trick that is related to their experience of the wild then you could grab their attention

Find an area with both stinging nettles and white dead-nettles:

White dead-nettle
Stinging nettle

Ask the children what the white dead-nettle is – they will probably guess ‘stinging nettle’. Most kids can identify this before any other wildflower, because it has a big impact on their experience of the outdoors!

Next, show how brave you are by running your hands up and down the white dead-nettle, then dare them to do the same. Once they realise that white dead-nettles are different to stinging nettles, they take an interest. They understand that the white flower is the important clue to which one stings, and that’s something worth remembering!

It also tends to stick as this is a great trick for showing it off to other kids!

Nature appreciation that leads to fewer stings AND the ability to show off? That’s a recipe for getting kids interested!

Find out more in this brilliant blog post about engaging children with nature. Want more tips like this? Head over to Tristan’s website to discover all sorts of intriguing ways to read nature’s clues – they’re guaranteed to liven up a long walk with children!

Read more about Tristan’s fascinating job in Whizz Pop Bang: ON THE MOVE – it’s in our shop now.

On the move cover

Whizz Pop Bang is a top-quality, gender-neutral, advert-free science magazine for families everywhere. Each issue is packed with experiments, activities, amazing facts, puzzles, jokes, riddles and more. Find out more here!


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Kit list for Whizz Pop Bang 61: ON THE MOVE

Find out about some of the most amazing animal migrations on Earth in the brand-new edition of Whizz Pop Bang: ON THE MOVE!

Come on an epic journey to investigate the science of migrations and travel. This issue, we’ll…
🐦 Build a welcoming bird bath
🧭 Make a compass in a jar
🌊 Investigate the impact of oil pollution
🐯 Learn how animal tracking devices work
🦜 Craft a brilliant balancing bird

Plus experiments, jokes, riddles, quizzes, competitions and more! Sign up by 4th August 2020 to receive this issue. 

Here’s a list of the extra bits you’ll need to complete every activity this month. As ever, there is loads of science fun to be had, even if you don’t have every single thing on the list. Let’s get going! 

Here’s a printable version of this month’s kit list 👇


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Whizz Pop Bang Coral Reef cover

Watch a Caribbean reef octopus change colour!

Want to watch an amazing octopus video? Using special skin cells called chromatophores, Caribbean reef octopuses can change colour at high speed to blend seamlessly into their coral home. This allows them to sneak up on prey and hide from predators.

See one in action here!

Discover more awesomely amazing coral reef residents in Whizz Pop Bang: REMARKABLE REEFS, available in our shop now!

Whizz Pop Bang Coral Reef cover

Whizz Pop Bang is a top-quality, gender-neutral, advert-free science magazine for families everywhere. Each issue is packed with experiments, activities, amazing facts, puzzles, jokes, riddles and more. Find out more here!


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Whizz Pop Bang Coral Reef cover

Make an edible coral polyp

Have you been reading about coral polyps in Whizz Pop Bang’s REMARKABLE REEFS edition?

This video shows how you can make your own edible polyp using banana, biscuits and sweets. Yum!

Find out more in REMARKABLE REEFS, available in our shop now!

This is great activity for schools teaching Animals, including humans and Living things and habitats at Key Stage 2. If you’re looking for science activities linked to coral reefs, give it a try!

Whizz Pop Bang is a top-quality, gender-neutral, advert-free science magazine for families everywhere. Each issue is packed with experiments, activities, amazing facts, puzzles, jokes, riddles and more. Find out more here!


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FREE science activities for year 4 and P5!

Now that schools are closed, have you become a home educator overnight? Whizz Pop Bang is the world’s most awesomely amazing kids’ science magazine, bursting with hands-on experiments, facts and fun, and we want to help you and your children with the huge transition that many of us face.

Here are some FREE science activities and experiments to help you entertain, excite and educate your year 4 child! You’ll find a reading comprehension about toilets, discover how to make slime, meet an inspiring female scientist, discover how to make an erupting volcano and how to mummify a tomato!

Our experiments are designed for children from 6 to 12, but this list of experiments is particularly perfect for year 4, P5 (Scotland), 8-year-olds and 9-year-olds as they tie in with the relevant National Curriculum objectives and topics.

The reading comprehensions included here were designed to be read at A3 size, so text may appear too small when printed at A4. They work really well on a tablet or monitor, or you may need to print them on two pages of A4 if your printer allows.

If you have any comments or questions about our free year 4 science experiments and reading comprehensions, please leave a comment for us. Or do you have any science homeschool ideas or general home educating ideas for 8- and 9-year-olds? We’d love to hear from you!

Find loads more science activities, puzzles and games in our award-winning monthly kids science magazine, Whizz Pop Bang!

How toilets work reading comprehension

Toilets! We all use them but how many of us know how they work? Now you can find out what happens to your wee and poo when you flush the toilet. A diagram of a toilet is labelled with expanded captions, including key vocabulary such as dual flush, cistern, valve, float, s-bend and inlet valve. 

This downloadable reading pack includes: 
– A reading spread about toilets for you to print or for your child to read on a tablet.
–  Reading comprehension question sheet and answer sheet.

Topic links: Year 4 Animals including humans, P5 Body system and cells


Make gloopy slime

Your slime-obsessed year 4 and P5 child will love this gooey activity! They will make their own slime, then decide if it is a solid or a liquid. This oobleck is guaranteed to provoke a lot of scientific discussion about changing states, reversible and irreversible changes, non-Newtonian fluids and more. It’s not as straightforward as it seems! 

You will need:
Cornflour
Water
Mixing bowl
Food colouring (optional)

Bonus activity: spot the difference puzzle

Topic links: Year 4 States of matter, P5 Properties and uses of substances.


Interview with an explosions expert reading comprehension

Meet chemistry professor, explosions expert and science communicator, Kate Biberdorf and find out why she blows up things to inspire her students!

This downloadable reading pack includes: 
– A reading spread about Kate Biberdorf for you to print or for your child to read on a tablet.
–  Reading comprehension question sheet and answer sheet.

Topic links: Year 4 States of matter, P5 properties and uses of substances.


Make your own volcano

Print a paper volcano, then use kitchen chemistry to make it erupt!

You will need:
A small container (e.g. a spice jar)
Bicarbonate of soda or baking powder
Vinegar
Red food colouring
Yellow food colouring
Washing-up liquid or soap
A tray or outside space

Bonus activity: fireworks on a plate

This activity is taken from Whizz Pop Bang’s Awesomely Amazing Science Club – download the entire pack here!


Lava experiment

Discover the difference between viscous and runny magma in this gloopy volcano activity!

You will need:
Golden syrup, honey or other viscous liquid
Two paper straws per child
Safety goggles (or sunglasses!)

Bonus activity: move water with fire

This activity is taken from Whizz Pop Bang’s Awesomely Amazing Science Club – download the entire pack here!


Mummify a tomato

Anything that was once alive can be mummified! Create the conditions used by Ancient Egyptians to mummify a tomato.

You will need:
Two tomatoes
Antiseptic liquid or handwash
Kitchen paper
Bicarbonate of soda
Salt
Two small jam jars or glasses, slightly bigger than your tomatoes
Toilet tissue (optional)


Are you home educating children in other year groups? Then you might find these posts helpful:
Free science activities for year 2 and P3
Free science activities for year 3 and P4
Free science activities for year 5 and P6
Free science activities for year 6 and P7


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FREE science activities for year 3 and P4!

Now that schools are closed, have you become a home educator overnight? Whizz Pop Bang is the world’s most awesomely amazing kids’ science magazine, bursting with hands-on experiments, facts and fun, and we want to help you and your children with the huge transition that many of us face.

Here are some FREE science activities and experiments to help you entertain, excite and educate your year 3 child! Meet an orthopaedic vet, be inspired by an amazing female scientist, do a walking water experiment, investigate air pressure and surface tension and make bendy bones!

Our experiments are designed for children from 6 to 12, but this list of experiments is particularly perfect for year 3, P4 (Scotland), 7-year-olds and 8-year-olds as they tie in with the relevant National Curriculum objectives and topics.

The reading comprehensions included here were designed to be read at A3 size, so text may appear too small when printed at A4. They work really well on a tablet or monitor, or you may need to print them on two pages of A4 if your printer allows.

If you have any comments or questions about our free year 3 science experiments and reading comprehensions, please leave a comment for us. Or do you have any science homeschool ideas or general home educating ideas for 7- and 8-year-olds? We’d love to hear from you!

Find loads more science activities, puzzles and games in our award-winning monthly kids science magazine, Whizz Pop Bang!


Interview with an orthopaedic vet reading comprehension

This is a great one for animal lovers! An interview with Toby Gemmill, whose job is to put broken pets back together after an accident. He explains how long bones take to mend, describes the trickiest operation he’s performed and gives some top tips on how to become a vet. Small snippets of text ideal for reluctant readers. 

This downloadable reading pack includes: 
– An interview with Toby Gemmill for you to print or for your child to read on a tablet.
–  Reading comprehension question sheet and answer sheet.

Topic links: Year 2 Animals including humans


Agnes Arber reading comprehension

Read about sensational scientist Agnes Arber, whose career as a plant scientist started when she was just 13! Her dedication to botany helped the world to realise the amazing talent of women in science.

This downloadable reading pack includes: 
– A feature about Agnes Arber for you to print or for your child to read on a tablet.
–  Reading comprehension question sheet and answer sheet.

Topic links: Year 3 Plants and P3 Biodiversity and interdependence


Walking water activity

Ask your child if they think water can ‘walk’? Set up a nifty experiment together to prove that it actually can move and discover how plants transport water using capillary action.

You will need:
Water
Kitchen towels
Food colouring

Bonus activity: upside-down glass experiment

Investigate surface tension and air pressure while learning a neat trick: how to turn a glass of water upside down without spilling a drop!

Topic links: Year 3 Plants and P4 Biodiversity and interdependence


Make a bendy backbone

Discover how the backbone is able to bend, even though it’s made of rigid elements, by creating a model backbone from vertebrae and cartilage!

You will need:
A 5 cm paperclip
A drinking straw
Scissors
A ruler
Sticky tack or Plasticine

Bonus activity: bendy bones experiment

Discover what happens when bones don’t contain enough calcium in this intriguing experiment.

You will need:
2 chicken bones (legs are ideal)
Jar with a lid (large enough to hold one bone with space at the top)
Vinegar
Cling film

Topic links: Year 3 Animals including humans and P4 Biological systems.


Are you home educating children in other year groups? Then you might find these posts helpful:
Free science activities for year 2 and P3
Free science activities for year 4 and P5
Free science activities for year 5 and P6
Free science activities for year 6 and P7


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