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Creating the Next Generation of Scientists

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Revolutions tend to be bloody affairs where lots of people die, and to be honest, executions are inadvisable when it comes to education. I don't want a revolution in science classrooms, what I do want is for the wonderful teaching and learning 'weapons' we already have to be used to greater effect.

There are a lot of talented and inspiring teachers out there doing a fantastic job with the resources they have. Through my work at Science Learning Centre I get to visit numbers of schools and meet a lot of teachers and science educators. There isn't a one size fits all answer to better school science but here are some of the not-so-secret weapons that I have discovered in my travels:

Hands on: hearts on: minds on
It's a mantra often used in the world of science centres and museums, and is also vital within the classroom. Practical hands on science can inspire students, give them a love for what they are doing and help them embed the knowledge they are learning

Be relevant and get connected
Seeing how science relates to them gives students a context to hang their knowledge around. It can inspire them to solve real world issues and help them make links across subject areas.

If you don't know what a chemical engineer or a medical physicist does, how will you ever aspire to be one? Meeting, hearing from and working alongside real scientists can challenge misconceptions, and inspire students to take science further.

How? Great teachers bring STEM ambassadors into classrooms and clubs, take students out, and go to local events such as Big Bang or the London School Science Conference.

At the annual London Schools Science Conference groups of students have the chance to meet scientists in person, try out scientific equipment such as a computer game that could save your life and tour interactive displays. Conferences like this make connections with industry and for example. medical device manufacturer Medtronic are sponsoring a "battle of the bands-style" workshop where six expert healthcare professionals go head to head to try to convince students that their medical device is the most innovative technology in healthcare today. It is through bringing science to life that children will become engaged and inspired.

Be creative: and encourage creativity
Science never moves forward without a bit of creative thinking. The best teachers I know encourage students to ask questions and think outside of the box. They also model creativity in the way that they teach.

Be genuine
Science should not be a recipe. Sometimes investigations become routine and boring with an unwritten expectation that we already know the answer. When we ditch the worksheets and let students pose their own questions, searching for genuine solutions it can be both revealing and inspiring- Visit the annual Big Bang fair to see this in action.

We are still waiting to hear about what the new curriculum will hold, but whatever we have to teach, let's not forget we have an arsenal of engaging weapons at our disposal in terms of how we choose to teach it.

Around the Web

STEM Education Coalition

PBS Teachers | STEM Education Resource Center

What is STEM Education? | DRPF Consults

Basics - STEM Education Has Little to Do With Flowers - NYTimes.com

Changing the Equation in STEM Education | The White House