Science Should Never Become Boring... Here's Why

27/09/2017 17:03

As you might expect, 'athlete' and 'firefighter' are two of the most sought after jobs for children. But it wasn't a surprise to me to find 'astronaut' and 'scientist' holding their own in the top ten as well. Why not? Defying gravity, even zero gravity, must be one of the most exciting scientific developments of our time, and children everywhere want to be a part of it.

So, why is it that that in recent years 47% of young people think that science subjects are for those who are 'boring', with a further 55% of online conversation describing STEM as 'too difficult'? What about the role physics has played in making space travel real? Or the scientific research which has allowed pilots to fly across the world at up to 39,000 feet? Science certainly isn't boring and I'm fascinated to know why one in two schoolchildren think it is.

Answering a question like this is not straightforward, and no one answer can solve it. But I think one way to address the issue is by encouraging schoolchildren to understand science away from their textbooks. I was lucky - Mr Davies, my primary school teacher, was nothing short of legendary in the classroom. He loved doing the sort of exploding volcano experiments that left red stains on the ceilings, and got us jumping out of our seats from the start of the lesson.


Photo Credit: Jonathan Birch/Statoil

It was these kinds of lessons that put me on the path to where I am today: presenting science live at events, on the TV, and on the radio. Doing what I do gives me the chance to convey to the next generation that science is not only important, but fun.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves - not all science is volcano-exploding-awe-inspiring amusement. Some elements of STEM subjects can be tremendously pure, complex and difficult to convey. But, even these subjects can be explained to children in interesting ways. I'm not expecting every lab technician in Britain to charge towards their nearest school test-tube in hand; but when scientists can explain things in a way that we can all relate to, it's great to try and make the link.

One way, for example, of presenting science to young people is as an explainer of everything we see. Science can answer a simple question, like why on earth your voice sounds different on video, or a more exciting one, like exploring how fireworks explode. Beyond this, science is about answering the most complex questions young people will face, so let's do everything we can to make it engaging.

Explaining real-world phenomena, big or small, in terms of science is what I love, and that's why I am working with Statoil and the Science Museum on this year's Young Imagineers competition. Steph McGovern, Jill Tully, Lopa Patel and I are inviting 7-14 year olds to design the future, under the title 'what invention would you create to make tomorrow's world a better place'. We're looking for a huge mix: everything from teleporters to biscuit dunkers welcome! Entries can be submitted here.

The ten most creative entries will be shortlisted and the entrants will get a chance to develop their invention with a top developer. Then, they'll be invited to showcase their entry to us with a live audience in an exclusive day of events at the Science Museum, on the 18th of November. The winner will get an even bigger prize - their invention will be created and displayed inside the Science Museum for everyone to see.

This is a great way to engage the UK's most talented minds with the STEM subjects, and show just how important they can be to the world we live in. Science isn't going anywhere, so let's make it as relevant as we can and have a laugh, and maybe a few explosions, along the way.