By Jason Rose

British Science Week 5-14 March is celebrated in most schools, with a range of events taking place including practical work, presenting current news in assemblies and watching as many documentaries as can be reasonably justified. During this ten-day celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths (www.britishscienceweek.org), the vast majority of teachers have no problem sharing their passion for science with their students. However, after British Science Week is over, the interest of a class may gradually wane over the next 12 months.

Fortunately, there are some great science teachers out there. As a Biology graduate, I am proud to say that my science education was nothing short of excellent. My high school, a comprehensive in a fairly deprived area, did a stellar job of encouraging students to pursue science as an interest outside of lessons. ‘Science in the News’ boards featured prominently in the foyer with articles of recent discoveries, and most rooms were covered with photos of famous scientists along with their respective contributions to their fields. No opportunity to apply our knowledge was wasted, and after a few months I started to read science articles in my own time out of genuine interest.

Unfortunately, many students will not have such a positive experience when studying science at school. Whilst a video of Felix Baumgartner’s jaw-dropping descent to Earth will keep a class entertained for five minutes, it often does little to motivate them during the rest of the session. It's a great opportunity to link these interesting stories to the topics being covered on a GCSE syllabus.

Felix’s jump could easily be used as the foundation for a session on terminal velocity, and many areas of science advance so rapidly that there is no excuse for not using current affairs to grab the attention of students. This is especially true for tutors, who have a set amount of time each week which can be easily adapted to discussing scientific news in a productive context. By using science news as a discussion point for GCSE topics, we can motivate students to explore science when outside of the classroom. Whenever science is mentioned in the news or on the radio, students will start to realise that the topics they learn about in class can be applied in some truly inspiring contexts.

Rather than telling students that STEM-related careers are lucrative, why not show them a picture of the Burj Khalifa or International Space Station so they can aspire to reach the upper limits of our engineering capability? When discussing space in Physics (a grievously short topic, I know), how difficult would it be to use a documentary clip or practical to demonstrate the sheer size of our known Universe? Rather than separating current affairs from specification content, the two should be combined at every possible opportunity. This is what inspired me, and I have no doubt that it is capable of inspiring the next generation of scientists.

British Science Week is a wonderful celebration of everything that makes being a scientist such an interesting and inspiring life path that is chosen by millions of people. The only problem is that it only lasts for just over a week. If you walk into a school’s music room at any time of year, there will be a buzz of energy from the creativity and ambition possessed by the students. There is no reason why a science classroom cannot be the same.

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