The teaching of science in our schools….

A funny sad thing happened at my school this week. It was National Science Week and I’d pushed and encouraged all class teachers to spend the same afternoon implementing a hands-on science activity within their classroom.

Just before the sessions commenced I put on my blue flying suit from Space Camp and theatrically set up and had two students launch a couple of A engine model rockets for the entire school. The firing was received enthusiastically and I quickly rustled up plenty of interest for the afternoon rocket club which is commencing soon. In short the kids were pumped!

We moved into our class sessions and I walked around the school to see students exploring density, building bi-carb volcanoes and testing plasticine bridges. There was smog being made and everywhere you looked there were hands-on and engaged (yes, that word) students and they were smiling.

After school a teacher came up commented on how great it was that the students were having fun and enjoying design and build, investigation, touching, constructing and so on…  The message was simple; we need to teach more quality science, the science needs to be hands on and teachers need to plan and implement these opportunities with enthusiasm and vigour. Why don’t these things take place on an everyday basis and be viewed as the learning moments or planned learning that they should be.

Too often we see science as a key learning area relegated to the back blocks of timetabling and viewed as an optional subject, which it is not. I’ve had newly graduated and experienced teachers come up and say they do not feel comfortable or knowledgeable enough to teach science with confidence and this saddens me.

How can a teacher complete a unit of work on gears and pulleys via worksheets yet never have students understand the simple mechanics involved through hands-on investigations using the likes of real bicycles, technical Lego or simple pulley systems?

School resourcing can be another issue; are there electrical components, rock samples, magnifiers and simple pieces of equipment to demonstrate that the school itself is committed to a quality science programme.

I know that I am passionate about seeing students engage with science; I want them to discover and explore and question what is happening in the world around them. As teachers we then need to provide appropriate opportunities, to learn with our students as they learn and ensure that we ourselves model and believe in the strength of science as the essential and rewarding area that it has been and remains for mankind.