More than 15,000 schools in Britain include concrete as a subject for school projects in their curricula. They find it a pleasurable, creative medium for capturing the interest of children and helping them learn how to solve problems. The British Cement and Concrete Association has developed course materials and established training courses for teachers.
An early experiment produced brightly painted concrete toadstool seats for a school's play area. Plastic drainpipe and an old basin were used as forms, and improvised steel reinforcement was placed at appropriate points. The pipe was split so that it could be pulled off after the concrete had hardened (it was joined with tape before the concrete was put in). Pieces of heavy steel wire were inserted to make the stalk stronger and to aid in joining it to the top. The mix was packed into the stalk mold and left to set till the next day. While the concrete in the boiler was still wet they bent the wires and inserted the stalk into the top. The following day they removed the whole toadstool from the mold. Holes were dug and pieces of pipe inserted to hold the toadstools firmly and prevent them from falling over. Sand was dropped into the bottom of each pipe to correct the height and then the toadstools, which had now been painted red with white spots, were planted.
A couple of years later when a primary school was closed because of its high-alumina-cement beams, the demolition and reconstruction work provided teacher Patricia Williams with a ready-made program of inquiry for her pupils. Copies of the drawings and work plans were provided so that the children were able to discuss the rebuilding. They made weekly tours of the site and followed the work with keen interest. Further, more ambitious projects ensued. The experience of planning, reinforcing, measuring and constructing molds, cutting and bending steel, mixing and placing concrete, removing formwork and finishing also involved many wider applications for subjects such as arithmetic, geometry, chemistry, physics, metalwork and carpentry.