Wednesday, 17 July 2013

"Did you like science...

at school?" my caller asked me.
One of the local journalists had contacted me to ask about something else but mentioned that one of the other journalists was working on a short piece about science teaching.
My answer probably shocked her because I said, "No, I loathed it."
Yes, I really did. I loathed science at school.
I can remember "Nature Science" in my "Infant School" days. There was the "Nature Science" table at the side of the classroom. There was the obligatory jar with the tiny tadpoles swimming sadly around. There were the obligatory saucers filled with damp cotton wool and sprouting wheat going mouldy and that worm farm. There were the feathers and the autumn leaves and a drooping plant.
It was hardly exciting stuff.
We did weather observations and listened to our teachers tell us about the importance of rain and the dangers of snakes and spiders.
We did "health and hygiene" as part of this nature science thing as well. There were lessons about germs and the importance of washing your hands. There were lessons about tooth decay, food groups, hair and how the heart pumps blood around the body.
Oh yes, I managed to learn something. I probably managed to learn more from reading books but I did learn something.
I don't remember learning about dinosaurs, in fact I am fairly sure they were never mentioned. When I asked the Senior Cat he said he could not remember dinosaurs being part of the curriculum in his first teaching years either. Possibly the inclusion of dinosaurs came later. 
Science was not history. I loved history with a passion. The history of science interested me too. I can remember the Senior Cat teaching us about Pasteur and Jenner - but that was a history lesson.
In secondary school we did "General Science" to start with. Science was not split into Physics, Chemistry and Biology (the only sciences available where I went to school) until we were in the "Intermediate" (UK residents read 4th year of secondary).  There was some "laboratory" work then. I was never allowed to so much as touch a test tube but I doubt it would have made any difference. I loathed the smell of the laboratory. What happened in there held no interest for me.
Looking back I know I was badly taught. I was taught by teachers who were little more than one lesson ahead of me. They were no more enthused about science than I was. They had been landed in remote country schools and been told that this is what they would be teaching because this was what was needed. Even if they had been enthusiastic the curriculum was not exciting.
I did manage to pass my science subjects. I even managed to do creditably well in them but I did not like them.
Later I had to do units in science teaching and I had to teach some science. Remembering my own boredom I set about trying to find ways of providing activities so that science became a subject in which you did something. We made telephones from tin cans and string to learn about sound and kites to learn about flight. I hope the children I taught enjoyed science more than I did.
I saw the article this morning. It mentioned some of the common misconceptions young people have about dinosaurs and their lack of knowledge about fresh water supplies. It was rather alarming because I know these things from general reading. It seems they don't know these things but they are supposed to learn about dinosaurs in schools and water is incredibly serious topic in Australia.
And I keep wondering about those dinosaurs. I wonder if I would have been more interested in science if the dinosaurs had been there?


Anonymous said...

The best part of science for me was in the lab ... I got partnered by the two class clowns who were also the top of the class in science. I learned very little, but enough to pass, but had plenty of laughs at the antics of the class.

Dinosaurs would have been more interesting to me than the term spent studying the physics of pulleys. We supposedly learned how many times the rope had to go around the pulley to lift a certain weight.

At teh end of that term I wandered around the farm sheds, and saw the two pulleys ... one big enough to lift a bale of wool, the other big enough for a truck engine.

Both had the ropes fixed so they wouldn't fall off, and there was no way of undoing a few turns of the rope around the wheels.

So I had wasted a term studying the theory, but in reality there was a choice of the big or little pulley!

catdownunder said...