Making Science Feel More Fun and Relevant for School Children
Ask a group of school children what their favourite subject is, and it’s unlikely to be science. In particular, girls opt out of the subject in their highest numbers, which perhaps goes some way to explaining why less than 15% of the entire STEM workforce (science, technology, engineering and maths) consists of women.
So, what can we do to help students – of all ages – to take a deeper, more prolonged interest in science?
Arrange for professionals to come in and inspire pupils
First, schools could arrange partnerships between ‘real world experts’ and pupils, inviting astronauts, engineers and biochemists (for example) to come and give speeches to groups of pupils.
Real world speeches, presentations and question and answer sessions by high-flying scientists will inspire and motivate students. It will help them to see that what they learn in school has an exciting and essential application in the ‘real’ world, and may inspire young people into certain careers, or at least help them to understand that there’s a genuine reason behind learning difficult theories and concepts in science lessons.
Tap into the channels that young people are spending their time on – like YouTubers
Next, schools need to use the same channels that students do in their spare time. For instance, why not encourage pupils watch Maddie Moate’s videos while they’re on YouTube?
Maddie Moate has a passion for helping young people to understand science, and her work has already been viewed more than 17 million times. She’s not a scientist herself, but she talks to experts and learns along the way, which is the central reason behind why young viewers bother watching her videos at all: they can learn with her, rather than being lectured to.
Do some practical experiments
Another way to get pupils more excited about science is to give them more opportunities to get ‘hands on’. There’s plenty of theory to learn, of course, but pupils are likely to take an interest if they get to do some experiments for themselves. Those in charge of supplying schools with educational materials, science equipment and tools should familiarise themselves with suppliers such as this one, and ensure that classroom labs stay well-equipped to be able to put on inspirational lessons throughout the year.
There are plenty of science activities you can do in the classroom, and if younger children are interested, they can even do some activities (such as these) at home if they have parents who’d like to help.
Be an inspirational teacher
Of course, one of the ways we can help science feel more fun for school children is to ensure that they have access to the best quality teachers. Carlo Rovelli is one such figure, and he believes that good teaching comes down connecting with pupils on an emotional level if you want them to be passionate about science.
“What matters… is seeing a real person talking about [science] and getting excited. Teaching in my opinion is not an intellectual thing” he tells the Telegraph. Instead, he says: “It’s an emotional thing. If it was an intellectual thing, you could replace teachers with books”. So, teachers need to inspire pupils by showing their passion for science first - leading by example!
Show kids where they can watch science programmes at home
Finally, we can help students to feel that science is more fun and relevant by showing them where they can get more information in the places they’d usually look anyway.
For instance, if pupils are old enough to be watching Netflix in their spare time, let them know about documentaries such as ‘Life’ or ‘Cosmos’ that are often running on Netflix. These documentaries are written and presented by some of the most passionate and knowledgeable scientists in the world, and are a great way of helping older children and teenagers to consider science as part of their ‘entertainment’ as opposed to it being a boring subject they have to study at school.
These are just a few ideas for making science feel more fun and relevant for school children. If we can embrace these ideas then hopefully the numbers of students electing to study science in the future will only increase.
By Naomi Webb
If you feel you’ve got what it takes to make a change in the classroom take a look at our current vacancies to start a career teaching science.