Time to challenge old stereotypes

26th January 1996 at 00:00
Science for Survival, A video pack with photocopiable teaching notes International Broadcasting Trust Pounds 15 (Pounds 18 after April) Available from DEDU (Development Education Dispatch Unit), 153 Cardigan Road, Leeds LS6 lLJ Age range 14 - 16

Science teachers are increasingly aware of the need to challenge the commonly held view that science is an activity mainly engaged in by western, white males in a laboratory.

Science for Survival makes a useful contribution to this difficult task. Aimed at the Life and Living Things attainment target of key stage 4, the video focuses on aspects of rural life in India to demonstrate how science is used in everyday contexts, particularly by women. In this way, all three aspects of the stereotype of a scientist are challenged at once. Printed material provides ideas for pre- and post-viewing activities as well as pupil worksheets.

The pack is organised into three sections; agriculture and environment, treating disease, and sericulture (the rearing of silkworms). For each section there is a 10-minute video clip, an analysis of the science concepts covered and between five and 10 ideas for activities. For example, the video clip for Treating Disease shows how Indian traditional medicine (Ayurvedic) is used in preference to Western (Allopathic) for treating some types of illness. Some of the treatments used, such as the application of leeches to reduce blood accumulation and preparation of drugs from local plants, are demonstrated.

The important role of women in the community in dispensing treatment as well as their involvement as white-coated scientists in research institutes is much in evidence in these clips. Activities are designed to engage the learner in a meaningful way. For example, the pre-viewing activity in this section provides data to enable pupils to create a time-line to show some of the key dates in the history of medicine.

This pack successfully offers a different perspective on science and scientists. Whether it provides "exciting footage", as the introduction claims, is debatable. Video material has been extracted from a film produced by the International Broadcasting Trust for BBC Worldwide to coincide with the Fourth World Conference on Women in Peking and the chosen clips don't tell the interesting story which is certainly there.

Pupils with sophisticated viewing habits may be able to follow the challenging ideas about science and development, others may need to have them spelt out. Nevertheless, the video provides a stimulating visual context for learning about science and should prove a good investment. The support materials are clear and interesting and the pack as a whole offers real potential for cross-curricular work.

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