If you are reading this between 11am and one minute past, it is possible that the ground beneath your feet may be shaking ever so slightly more than usual. The reason is that in thousands of playgrounds up and down the country, school children are participating in a simultaneous 60 seconds of frenzied jumping. Their aim is to find out what seismic effect so much jumping might have - and create a world record.
Today's Giant Jump is the centrepiece of the official launch of the Department for Education and Skills' Science Year. Seismologists will measure the effect of the jump, and the results will be known shortly and posted on the website (www.scienceyear.com). But the launch is just the first event in a busy calendar of activities. The idea is to get as many people as possible involved throughout the year and encourage them to take full advantage of what is on offer.
Science Year will make science-related teaching and learning more enjoyable and engaging not just for pupils, but also for teachers, parents and everyone else. It also aims to raise the profile of science throughout the wider community and change attitudes about what science is and what it can do for you.
The objective of the year is to create sustainable change that will not only be felt in the short-term but in the longer term too. Science Year will complement the science strand of the key stage 3 strategy that the DFES is rolling out during 2002. The KS3 strategy will support and strengthen the teaching of science for 11 to 14-year-olds.
Science Year has been working with some of the UK's most active and innovative science-related organisations to provide a full 12 months of activities and projects, science clubs, teachers' materials and media resources. Its two main partners are the Association for Science Education and the British Association for the Advancement of Science.
As part of the campaign to engage young people in the benefits of learning science, the DFES ran television advertisements in March, which linked science to things young people are interested in, such as music, football, laughter and physical attraction. Some 56,000 free science packs containing samples of various scientifically "smart" materials were requested by visitors to the Science Year website, while 5,000 teachers registered for the accompanying information packs.
A second television campaign will be launched in October, again with free science kits on offer. And Channel 4 will be broadcasting five specially produced short films slotted between full-length schools' programmes. These zip through some easy but baffling home experiments, and aim to provoke discussions about some of the mysteries of science, with the tag line "Put Your Teacher On The Spot!" Science Year will ensure that teachers continue to be supported with resources that offer a range of interesting and fun activities to inspire young people. It will open students' eyes to the wide spread of career options available to those who have an understanding of science (for example, in the media, sport and music). To help with career choices, the DFES has produced a video presented by Harry Hill, which features a range of examples of exciting jobs with a science element.
Science Year was the brainchild of the DFES and is managed by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA). Businesses are playing a major role in helping to deliver and sustain a number of key science projects, such as laboratory resources for schools, teacher training and Science Ambassadors.
The best way to keep up to date on all forthcoming Science Year activities and events is to visiting the website: www.scienceyear.com. While you are there, sign up to receive weekly newsletters by e-mail. Keep your eyes open for the Science Year logo on television and around your neighbourhood.
Science Year, 11 Tufton Street, London SW1P 3QB. Tel: 0207 233 4051. Web: www.scienceyear.com Anne McNaught is web and media manager for Science Year. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org More information about Science Year on page 23