Enquiry and exploration in science must be set in the context of the real world, says David Moore of the ASE.
Where has all the fun gone? I was lucky to begin my teaching in a golden age of the Nuffield Sciences, when students were excited by new age science. I experienced a great spirit of innovative teaching, pushing out the frontiers of our subject. The curriculum has moved on, but I hope that in taking on-board the latest version, we will be looking for opportunities to do new things in new ways.
Science is held in high regard by our community, although we regularly underplay the contributions it has made to our daily lives. What would the Wright brothers make of Heathrow, Stephenson of Crewe Station or Florence Nightingale of Leeds General Infirmary? Even with the recent concerns regarding gene modification or BSE, the place of scientists in the decision-making process has been underlined. Science in schools and colleges has to be set in the context of real science.
Coping with an ever-expanding body of knowledge is a dilemma in science teaching. The construction of a national curriculum forces us to be selective about its content. In examining the latest version, we must think carefully about that context and not passively accept it as given. We need to ask which of the recent discoveries should be taught and which aspects of the present curriculum should be dropped.
The Exploration of Science was a feature of the first version of the curriculum, included to help understand how science really works. When used well, it stimulates the imagination of students. Entries into each of the three award schemes for investigative work that the Association for Science Education manages - Science Challenge, Health Matters and Spotlight Scientists - impress the judges by their creative vision.
In Scientific Enquiry, there is greater freedom and scope to engage in solving problems. The opportunities are there to show how science affects our lives. We have all devoted energy in recent years to improving the teaching of science. The time has come to revive our tradition of innovation, in seeking 21st-century ways of engaging our students.
The ASE provides the network for ideas and queries from which many have drawn help and inspiration. We rely for our development on all who have an interest in teaching science. If you would like to join us, write to me, or visit our website.
Dr David S Moore is chief executive of the ASE, College Lane, Hatfield, Herts. Tel: 01707 283000 firstname.lastname@example.org www.ase.org.uk