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Science - Let's think critically

What it's all about

Do you use YouTube clips, newspaper articles or even popular television shows in your science lessons? Putting what we teach into an everyday context can make for stimulating lessons, writes James Williams.

But can we rely on the media for correct scientific information? Take the following stories: "Mobile phone masts cause brain tumours"; "All GM (Frankenstein) foods are dangerous"; "The MMR vaccine causes autism in children". As science teachers, we would present all of these as false.

The best journalism and scientific research is both truthful and accurate, but it is entirely possible for something to be accurate and still be misleading.

Using clips of "science in action" from TV shows such as CSI: NY (above) is appealing, but it can lead to misconceptions. Some common mistakes include showing only one or two crime scene investigators collecting and analysing all crime scene evidence, or the blue light that TV scientists use to detect the presence of blood at a crime scene when real-life forensic scientists prefer to work in full light so that nothing is missed. On TV, those examining a scene often don't wear face masks, but in real life they have to, to prevent contamination.

So try to relate the story to how real science works. Develop your pupils' critical thinking skills. Get them to critique a science news story, point out vital information that is missing or even flaws in the statistics or logic of the arguments used. For more, visit www.badscience.net

What else?

Explore the chemical, biological and physical investigations of forensic scientists with russellarnott `s resources. Or try 1kat1 `s quick forensic research quiz to test pupils' evidence-hunting skills.

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