After a recent input on the ‘Science Literacy’ we were asked, in groups, to produce an informative short piece related to the input. Not only was this to consolidate what we had learned but also to develop our understanding, awareness and appreciation of what ‘Science Literacy’ really is and how fundamental it is within the classroom.
‘Scientific literacy’ is increasingly seen as the primary goal of school science.”(Miller, 2007) This wasn’t always the case due to many teachers in primary and secondary schools having a slight fear towards science as a subject. Therefore as a result, this derogatory attitude was understandably passed on to their students. Negative attitudes could be a result of the teachers not being able to understand concepts or formulas concerning certain scientific processes due to being uneducated themselves from a young age. Thus meaning that for them to then teach their own pupils in depth could be daunting. However, there is now an ever increasing consideration- and quite rightly so- that Science should be up there with the standard core subjects such as math and English.
Science has been evident in some shape or form since the beginning of time, for example, cavemen lighting fires to gain heat, to cook or to use as a source of light. The misconception of whether something has a scientific purpose behind it or why something happens is the problem which still occurs in today’s society. For this reason solely it is essential for schools to start making children literate concerning Science. For example, when carrying out experiments one main process children work by is also known as POE (Predict, Observe and Explain). In order to do this they have to have a firm knowledge of simple concepts that they can then apply in future experiments or day to day on goings. Thereby giving them the ability to comprehend and then explain what may or may not happen and most importantly why.
The MMR vaccine controversy of 1998 is one of the most commonly known examples of where a lack of scientific literacy has led to inaccurate media reporting.
This controversy was created by Dr Andrew Wakefield, who carried out an investigation into the three in one vaccine for the prevention of measles, mumps and rubella. Wakefield’s research paper, which was published in the medical journal The Lancet, claimed that there was a link between the vaccine and a child’s likelihood of developing autism. This caused great concern for parents and resulted in the widespread decline of children receiving the vaccine in the UK and Ireland.
It was not until 2004, and later again in 2010, that this claim was discredited by leading specialists who carried out further studies. They discovered that Wakefield had manipulated his findings, but more to the point, that there was in fact no link between autism and the MMR vaccine.
This public consumption of false, misleading information caused a significant increase in the number of children who contracted measles, mumps and rubella. This is a prime example of how easy it is to be wrongly influenced and why scientific literacy is so important.
As teachers, we must foster an environment that allows pupils to develop their scientific literacy and understanding of concepts and ideas. Ensuring the classroom environment promotes thinking, listening, questioning, talking, play, exploration and experiment is pivotal to the broadening of scientific vocabulary for children. Looking at the idea of ‘fair testing’ at primary school level links closely to the development of strong scientific literacy. Through consideration of what it means to conduct an experiment under fair test conditions, pupils can begin to understand the need for all variables to be kept the same, apart from those which are being tested for. This developing of understanding will help pupils to ensure that once they have measured what they already know, all future experiments and investigations will produce accurate results which correctly inform the progression of their knowledge.
Encouraging pupils to investigate good and bad examples of ‘fair testing’ will allow them to explore and engage with science. Where everyday objects are used for such exploration – such as a motorbike race – science becomes much more accessible for children and a developing interest is likely to be reflected in their developing vocabulary in relation to science and experimentation.
We hope that by reading this, if you were unsure of what the term ‘Science Literacy’ meant and how it relates to everyday life, that now you do!