13th May 2005 at 01:00
Crisis? What crisis? Bill Hicks finds a well of creativity and enthusiasm in the TES science forum

Whenever science education is discussed in the media, the word "crisis" never seems to be far away. Would-be young scientists, pundits say, are being turned off the traditional disciplines either because they're boring or just too damned difficult.

With this in mind, I turned to our Science forum, worried that its denizens, never the loudest voices in the Staffroom, might actually have given up and gone away to re-train. The first thread on the page suggested otherwise: "Brewing in school. To brew or get busted!?" So - not suicidal, but driven to drink, maybe? And too skint to buy a six-pack of Special Brew?

No you fool, read on. Pyrites was "about to start a new unit with the Year 9s post Sats on enzymes and crude oil... (which) involves fermenting to produce alcohol".

He "jokingly" suggested bringing in a home-brew kit, which the head of department thought was a great idea, but, "If I do am I opening a big legal can of worms?"

The first to respond was miseryguts, whose advice was far from miserable:

"Brewing is great... I don't see the legal problem as long as it's only wine or beer. Obviously you must not allow them to taste it!"

Further encouragement arrived from herb lassie: "I have made beer, lager, ginger beer and cider in the past. Usually with a sixth-form GNVQ class.

Just be sure to clear it with your head before you start, just in case."

Prep-room-boy and others chipped in with all the necessary health and safety precautions, but basically, it seemed, pyrites had the green light.

A couple of days later, he was back in the forum. "First batch made today! I feel a song coming on..."

So do I, pyrites. It's good to hear that, for all the crushing weight of bureaucracy, science teachers are still coming up with imaginative ways of teaching core concepts.

By now, another topic had started: "English teacher seeks aid of scientist!" The exclamation mark suggested not so much urgency as surprise that science teachers could be of any use for anything. Wrong again: Zobo was teaching Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (pictured) with a Year 8 class, and wanted to know how Dr Frankenstein's experiment would be presented if it were to be set as a GCSE question. Zobo got some good answers and hardly any flak. I was left feeling a lot happier about the morale of the science teaching community. And someone has a lot of bad home-brew to drink.

Finally, re last week's column, good news from the Marketplace forum.

Mrsnapalm has a new delivery of giant African land snails, all looking for good homes.

Bill Hicks is editor of the TES website. www.tes.co.ukstaffroom

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