Scientific Literacy

Scientific Literacy and Education

Scientific literacy is becoming a prominent feature within education. In the Science Principles and Practice section of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) (2010) there is an emphasis on this area and that we, as teachers, should be developing scientific literacy within our pupils.

When first being introduced to scientific literacy our thought was that it was based upon knowing a range of scientific language and being able to use them appropriately, but that is the complete opposite of the true definition of scientific literacy. After doing some reading (W. Harlen and A. Qualter, 2009), it was clear that scientific literacy is more than simply understanding scientific language. The definition of scientific literacy is connecting the knowledge children have in science to real life events, so they can analyse and evaluate science based articles to ensure what they are reading is scientifically accurate. Therefore, they will be able to understand that they should not always believe what they read about science in the media. This is a very important aspect we should be teaching children as previous media reports have shown how the public can be easily led by “scientific based” news stories.

The knowledge of scientific literacy is extremely important, especially when you look at examples of when the lack of knowledge has been proven to be dangerous in society. In 1998, a doctor named Andrew Wakefield released a paper on the research he had been doing about the link between the MMR vaccine and autism. As this research was released by an extremely respected medical journal, Lancet, editors and members of the public started to panic. Suddenly anti-MMR stories started to be printed by many other newspapers as people were coming forward with their stories. The country began to think they had been lied to by the medical authorities and turned to the government for reassurance. The press asked the Prime Minister at the time, Tony Blair, what his thoughts on the vaccine were and if he would give it to his son, Leo. He refused to answer and this lead to many stories on the MMR scare being about his son in 2002. Thankfully, an investigation in 2004 led to Lancet coming forward and admitting that the research by Andrew Wakefield was improper and inaccurate. Unfortunately, even after all of this, people still doubted the vaccine and this is all down to the lack in knowledge of scientific literacy. If the public had been scientifically literate, they would have been able to analyse the article and realise for themselves that it was based on inaccurate research and was an unfair experiment. Therefore, it is important to teach scientific literacy within school, through teaching things like fair testing.

Fair testing in science is the process of carrying out a controlled investigation in order to answer a scientific question. Children need to understand that a test is only fair if only one variable is changed during the experiment. Pupils will experiment in science the whole way through school. Therefore, they will develop their skills and knowledge of fair testing and why it is important. It is essential that teachers understand fair testing themselves so as to explain the terminology and concepts of a scientific experiment to pupils. (The School Run, 2018). Scientific literacy is not knowing lots of scientific facts. It is instead an understanding of how science actually works. It is important for children to have good scientific literacy as they progress through school and into further life. Practicing fair testing during school will help them explore science rather than simply learn and retain facts. It is therefore essential as pupils will learn the proper ways to test in science and will be encouraged to answer questions and discover for themselves. Using fair testing through experimentation could create a more positive attitude towards science and improve pupils’ scientific literacy through enjoyment (Durant, J. 1994).

 

Thus, a focus upon scientific literacy must be emphasised within schools to ensure a new generation of scientifically literate children who do not believe everything they read. This can be done through teaching fair testing and making science relevant to real life.

 

References

Durant, J. (1994). What is scientific literacy? European Review, 2(1), 83-89. doi:10.1017/S1062798700000922

The Scottish Government (2010) Curriculum for Excellence: Sciences principles and practice. Available at: https://education.gov.scot/Documents/sciences-pp.pdf(Accessed on: 8th February 2018)

  1. Harlen and A. Qualter (2009) The Teaching of Science in Primary Schools. 5thedn, London: Routledge

What is a Fair Test? (2018) Available at: https://www.theschoolrun.com/what-is-a-fair-test (Accessed on: 10/02/18)

RME, it is not just about religion

“What have you learned during the RME inputs?”

When faced with this question I was not 100% certain what I had learnt, until I had todays input. It’s all about the child’s understanding behind religions and their personal journey to find that.

I realised this today after getting to see and touch artefacts related to various areas of RME, including those from the picture at the top. It really made me realise that having objects engages children much more as they can put a visual to what you are saying, additionally gaining more of an understanding.

But you cannot just have the objects alone, there needs to be discussion surrounding them, such as what do you think the object is used for? how do you think we should handle them? These open questions are allowing the children to think deeper leading to a better understanding which is, ultimately, what I would set out to achieve.

Overall, I am much more confident in teaching RME to children and I do not think I will ever know everything to do with all religions! But that’s okay, I think sometimes learning with the children allows them to understand that you are human too and that (as much as I think we find it hard to admit) teachers do not know everything!

Making those mistakes, researching and working with the children will, overall, lead to a more positive ethos within the classroom, helping with other areas of classroom and behaviour management.

Reflection

Reflecting on this first semester I have realised that I, as a person, have changed professionally and personally.

I used to be quite an anxious person and found the thought of starting University quite daunting. But now, I am relishing in the fact that I am here, and I should be enjoying every moment! Which leads me onto my new lease for life, that I should not take everything as a knock back, treat everything as a new learning curve and a way to improve. A key element, I believe, for being a reflective teacher.

This new lease for life is a great value which I should try and instil in the children I teach and to make them aware that it is okay to make mistakes. I became aware of this new lease for life whilst doing the working together module. It made me understand that, sometimes, you need to make a few mistakes in order to get the best outcome and I was able to reflect upon this using Brookfleild’s lenses….something I will never forget and I will need to be an effective reflective teacher.

Being a reflective person was something that we were always told about from the beginning and was something which I did not truly understand and thought it was just something that we had to do. But, I understand now that to be a reflective teacher will not only benefit myself but also the children whom I teach, as they will not just be getting the same teaching style or resources all the time. I will change for the better therefore the children will too.

However, a key moment of professional reflection is through the values module. I was initially a bit sceptical about this module and did not understand how it would benefit me professionally. However, I now understand our own values need to be in the right place in order to teach children as we will be a role model for them and, hopefully, their own set of values. I was able to explore my own values and how these might relate to myself personally and professionally and what society makes of me. It was interesting and eye opening and made me realise the true extent to which my values go and the example I should be setting for children.

I will continue to reflect throughout my professional practice in order to become an effective reflective teacher.

“Can we fix it?”

When in the classroom it appears children are really innocent and do not realise what is expected of them. To some extent this is true but, without children realising, they are being socialized into what society expects them to be.

Children of any age, size, race, ethnicity, gender should be allowed to be who they want to be, and even although this may be something we try and encourage children to understand, it is society who are warping their minds.

This predominantly starts from our own experiences, for example from what our family does, from what friends want to do, from who our teachers, doctors, nurses are…. the list is endless. From my own personal experience, I had always had female teachers through Nursery and Primary School. Then, when the new male head teacher started, safe to say, I was terrified! I didn’t know what to make of him; as I had never experienced a male teacher before and I did not know what to make of the situation.

Even although I was at Primary School 8 years ago now, this is a still prominent feature in today’s society. Take, for example, the Education course I am on just now, there is only 4 boys overall on the course; only 4 boys who will therefore go into the teaching profession creating a role model for another generation of young children. I think we need to change the future of the education system for men, make it more acceptable for men to join the profession. The government are always saying we need more teachers. I think they are missing a trick with trying to involve more men.

However, it is not just our experiences which go towards this; the media does not help either.

Children’s television programmes are a constant source of portraying to children what they should and shouldn’t be. Normally we see the stereotypical male and female roles being played by male and female characters. For example, in Balamory, PC Plum is stereotypically played by a man and Miss Hoolie, the Nursery worker, is stereotypically played by a woman. Or Bob the Builder (stereotypically played by a man) is saying to young girls that you cannot be me, but you can be Miss Hoolie.

Quoting Bob the Builders famous catch phrase: “Can we fix it?” –  Can we fix this growing epidemic, where girls believe they can only be in stereotypical female jobs and and males can only be in stereotypical male jobs?

Recently, this idea has been raised by the Chief Fire Commissioner in London. Dany Cotton is the first female Commissioner for the London Fire Brigade and recently won an award at the First Women Awards for “Women in Public Service”. After an interview on ITV she said how she thought that the famous cartoon character Fireman Sam should be named Firefighter Sam. She believes “Fireman” is not going with the “Firefighter” term they now have. And I believe her. This is a prime example for children not realising that this is something they could pursue, especially young girls.

Some people believe that simply television programmes cannot be the only reason for preventing children from being who they want to be. And I agree, but it certainly does not help. And we can see from a video done by MullenLowe that children really do believe that many professions can only be done by men.

After being asked to draw several different characters to the job roles e.g. Firefighter, surgeon etc we see that majority have drawn men. As men are socially accepted in these working roles and children believe this through their own experiences, as expressed above, and through children’s television programmes. Even when the women of each profession come into the classroom there is some girls who still do not believe it; thinking that they are dressed up! So how have we managed to say to children that its okay to dress up as these people, but you cannot actually be in this job.

I find it bizarre that we are still living in a society where both male and females cannot be and express who they want to be fully. I also find it terrifying that it was not that long ago that women and men were experiencing such hardship and, don’t get me wrong, we have a come a long way and we are better.

But we need to make it even better

Society needs to change the way they are warping children’s minds and make it more socially acceptable to let men and women be who they want to be.

“Can we fix it?”

Pink or Blue?

 

Recently, I watched a short video based on the toys in which children play with (above). However it is not the children who intentionally pick these toys, it’s the adults surrounding them that subconsciously repeat this throughout society. But why does there need to be a divide between girls and boys toys?

As a society we have invented this notion of “pink for girls” and “blue for boys” and even when you ask children what there favourite colour is girls will normally go for pink and boys will normally go for blue. But is this because we are subjecting them to this from a young age through the toys they receive?

My favourite colour is blue, does that mean I am boy?

Even when you walk into a toy shop you can clearly see already where the “boys toys” are and the “girls toys”. Even certain brands have made specific gendered toys even although they could all play with it regardless of the colour. But there seems to be this perception that only girls can play with dolls and boys can play with cars.

Lets put this into an adult situation where both elements of play are real. The women stay at home all the time and look after the children and the men go out and work in a mechanics for example. We would not be happy with that way of living, we would want change. Which we have……haven’t we?

Subjecting children like this is not helping there development in this modern world. They need to be taught that it is okay to be who you want to be and play with who and what you want to play with.

I have recently seen, in a nursery setting, how all the girls loved to dress up, walking over to the hangers with confidence with the idea of “who am I going to be today?”. They dress up as anything from their favourite Disney princess to a police officer. However the boys tend not to sway with this idea, normally going to the lego or to the house corner to play with the babies. I’m not saying that boys don’t play dressing up, they do, but from what I’ve seen most boys ask if it would be okay first.

If girls can then why can’t boys?

Relating back to the video at the beginning, the adults with the children tried to give them toys relating to their “gender”. Subconsciously they are giving the children these toys as society has brought us all up to believe that is right. However, if you give children a set of random toys they will play with anything, they will not think that this is the toy I have to play with.

They just want to play.

And play is essential to learning, developing and ultimately making our children happy. Which is an equal understanding we all share.

Letting children chose what they want to play with rather than telling them will, I believe, help with this. Even in a classroom setting let the children be who they want to be, if not we are restraining them from being themselves. Let them bring their own toys in which they enjoy playing with as it will make them happy.

Next time you walk into a toy shop just see how many “boys and girls toys” there are.
I think you’ll be surprised!

What would you do?

Everybody’s life’s are different, someone may look the same as you and feel the same as you but the worries and struggles we all face are different. We shouldn’t take what we have for granted when others are struggling.

What would you do if you knew somebody was struggling with money, food, clothes, house, rent, would you help?

Or would you keep living your life with your own worries hoping that some day it will all blow over.

For some people it doesn’t blow over. It is a constant reminder of what, they believe, is failing in life. We, as a society, label others as “rich” and “poor” and we treat these people with different respect. Where has the equality gone? Has there ever been equality?

In my recent workshop for my values module we were split into groups and each given an envelope. The contents of each envelope was different; ranging from a wide variety of materials to a scarce amount. We were then told to create something that would help a first year student at University with the resources given to us.

From the start our lecturer was treating everybody differently; the groups who had more were treated with a lot more respect whereas the people who had less were not treated with equal respect.
As the task went on the groups who had less were beginning to feel worse, as if they couldn’t do anything right.
We were then told at the end of task that the whole time the lecturer was acting, conveying to us what it might feel like to be treated differently by people who have more.

From somebody who has been reasonably well off so far, I felt awful. I was part of the group who didn’t have very much and we tried so hard with what we had. Which is what people around the world are trying to do now as I am writing this. Scrimping here, saving there to try and live a decent life.

The labels that we give each other of “rich” and “poor” are very negative. Should the “rich” not be helping the “poor”?

Yes, I believe so.

During the task, although we might have had less, we were much more resourceful. Whereas the people who had everything used everything, when they could have given to the “poor”. In society the “rich” should be helping with what they have and, don’t get me wrong, some are. There are food banks which the “rich” put food to, local communities where centres are set up to help with situations, but it isn’t enough.

The “poor” are still “poor” and the “rich” are still “rich”.

Let me set the scene: you are a teacher at a school, you walk into your class and see there is a mixture of girls and boys, backgrounds and cultures, “rich “ and “poor”. Would you treat everybody differently or would you treat them the same?

Any good minded human being would treat all the children with equal respect, so why don’t we in an everyday situation with adults. Is it not the just the same? With children we would give them all the the help they need to give them the best start in life, so why can’t we with adults?
We tell children to share with each other, no matter the background or culture or “rich” or “poor”. But, again, we do not do this as adults. Why? What makes us change?

Society.

As children we do not conform to what society want us to be as we don’t understand this concept yet. As we grow we begin to see what society want us to be and we conform. This is where we change. This is where we don’t share, this is where we don’t treat everybody equally, this is where the labels of “rich” and “poor” begin.

What would you do if you knew somebody was struggling with money, food, clothes, rent, would you help?

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Teacher, Lorraine Lapthorne conducts her class in the Grade Two room at the Drouin State School, Drouin, Victoria

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