The following quote comes from an article about science clubs in the UK, aimed at 12 & 13-year olds & intended to stimulate interest in science:
“The ultimate aim is to enthuse young people about learning again…We want the clubs to help kids to see that science isn’t just about crazy, white-haired men in labs cooking up noxious substances, and that engineering doesn’t just involve greasy car mechanics. We want to encourage them to learn that Stem (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) subjects are a really positive force all around us — and to have fun while doing so.”
And apparently the primary-school kids hanging around some of the practical classes get a blast, too. Which is as it should be – children are fascinated with the way the world works, & the more we can further that interest & encourage them to get into science & related areas, the better.
Our own government appears to recognise the significance of science & technology: from Wayne Mapp’s speech at Waiariki Institute of Technology, on October 15:
The next area of achievement I am focused on is the performance of the research, science and technology system. As the Prime Minister said last month, at the launch of the Primary Growth Partnership, “we need to put science at the heart of this National-led Government “.
And the Royal Society recently announced the list of primary school teachers who have won fellowships for the coming year, during which they’ll work alongside scientists in a range of host organisations. The intention is that they’ll become science curriculum leaders on returning to their schools; a worthwhile aim given the woefuly low amount of time given over to science in the primary school curriculum: “science education is currently not high on the priority list at primary schools, with an average of just one hour per week taught.”
It’s hard to see how all this sits in the light of the government’s recent announcement that there will be no additional funding to support science & the arts in primary schools next year, with the money going instead to the new ‘national standards’ in the three Rs. As Paul Callaghan said in his lecture, Beyond the farm and the theme park, our future lies in science and technology, and this obviously requires a society that values those subjects & is (to some degree at least) scientifically literate. And the spark of interest in science should be lit, and nurtured, in the youngest members of our society. I congratulate the Royal Society primary school fellowship holders & wish them well – but they will need signficant support on returning to their classrooms if we are to maximise this investment in our future.