Science is Cool.
What is science? Look at the cube on the right. Notice the brown tile in the centre on the top of the cube? Now, look at the face that is in the shade. See the orange tile in the centre?
Would you be surprised to know they are the same colour?
If you still don’t believe me, check out this 30-second video that proves it. I don’t know about you, but even though I have proven this to myself many times I still see different colours.
Let’s try another one. Take a remote control and have a look at the end that you point at the TV. You may notice a little LED or something indicating the signal is coming from that end.
When you press the power button as if by magic, the TV turns out, but when you look with your own eyes you probably won’t see anything.
However, if you use the camera on your phone to capture the process you might be surprised to see on your phone screen a light, just like the one in the picture, is coming from your remote control!
Look again with your eyes and nothing is there! (Note this does not work with all phone cameras)
The Curiosity of Science
I’ve got loads more where they came from and I’ll explain the second one later on. My reason for mentioning them now is to demonstrate the sense of awe and delight we can get from science.
Since we were babies, we have all had a curiosity about the world out there and have always been trying to understand how it all works. Ever since a baby’s experiment with dropping their toy and noticing it fall to the floor and then noticing their mum picking it back up, to illusions and experiments and documentaries and questions about the universe. Why is the sky blue? Why are plants green? We are born with an innate curiosity and when you satisfy this curiosity you just want to know more! It’s learning for its own sake!
So, imagine how I feel, as a teacher when I hear that some children’s least favourite subject is science?? What?! How can this possibly be??? What they mean, of course, is they don’t like their science lessons, not that they don’t like science.
Although, the association is developed and as such their curiosity about the world around them is reduced and all they feel when they think of science is a sense of confusion and anxiety. “Why do we have to learn this sir? How is this ever going to help me with what I need to do?” They may say.
Science is interesting and fascinating. But science can also be difficult. It’s difficult to understand what the teacher means when they are talking about invisible electromagnetic waves or protons and neutrons and electrons which make up atoms which make up everything, which are… invisible!
“I didn’t know about this before, and I’ve coped fine. Why do I need to memorise that protons have a charge of 1 and that gamma rays are the highest frequency of electromagnetic radiation? Who cares?”
Fair point. If there is no link between a person’s experience and what they are learning then there’s not much incentive to learn it, apart from passing the exam of course.
Feed the Curiosity
If you start with something like that demonstration with the remote control. Then go on to say that there are waves of invisible light going everywhere all around us, all of the time. Point out that we can only detect a few of them with our eyes, but that the rest are there. Then suggest that you tell them about these other waves and how understanding them has led us to do things which we never thought were possible hundreds of years ago.
Now that’s a little more interesting.
Documentaries understood that is why as adults we regularly choose to watch scientific documentaries. Of course, the objective of the documentary makers is to get us to watch them, whereas the objective of the class-teacher is to get the students to pass the exam! So you can understand why this focus is different.
A Science Experience
I once had a difficult class and I was using the standard approach of introducing the knowledge, setting tasks, and then assessing the students to build up their understanding of the topic and prepare them for their exams, but much of them just didn’t seem to care.
In an act of desperation, I chose to totally change tactic and we did a project on how we see the world. We compared and contrasted echolocation, regular eye-sight and a type of technology that helps blind people to ‘see’ with their tongue!
In the same amount of time it would have taken me to teach the topics light and sound, I was able to get these students to produce incredible projects. Their test scores for those units were the best I’d seen for a long time with that class!
What’s more, it was actually easier! They wanted to hear more, wanted to understand. They wanted to work things out, were inspired and they remembered that they love science!
A bit about the author, Paul H:
Paul is a qualified and experienced Physics, Maths and Science teacher, now working as a full-time tutor, providing online tuition using a variety of hi-tech resources to provide engaging and interesting lessons. He covers Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Science from Prep and Key Stage 3 through to GCSE and IGCSE, plus teaches Physics, Maths and Chemistry to A Level across all the major Exam Boards.