Teaching overview

Learning points

  • Researchers in China have invented a wooden sponge that could help to clean up after oil spills.
  • Scientists in the UK have trained dogs to recognise the smell of people who have malaria. The dogs could help identify infected people more quickly.
  • A team of scientists in South Africa has created "bio-bricks" using urine. Unlike regular bricks, they do not need to be baked at high temperatures.

Curriculum keywords

  • Oil spills
  • Medicine
  • Malaria
  • Sustainability
  • STEM

Video viewing guide

This graphic organiser supports your students to capture their thoughts and questions as they watch the news update.

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Spark a discussion

Oil sponge

  • Why is it necessary to try to clean up after oil spills?
  • What are the advantages of using wood to create the sponge, rather than a human-made material?
  • How could the scientists change their sponge design so it works on a large scale – for example, after a real-life oil spill?

Sniffing out malaria

  • Why is it important to identify and treat people with malaria quickly?
  • Do you think the dogs can identify for certain whether someone has malaria by sniffing their socks? Why, or why not?
  • What other ways do dogs work with humans to help them tackle challenges?


  • Unlike regular bricks, bio-bricks don’t need to be baked. Why is this an advantage?
  • To make lots of bio-bricks, lots of urine would have to be collected! Why might this be challenging?
  • Can you think of another way a waste product could be used to make something new?

Discover more about the topics covered in this week's News update

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