Tassie teacher takes action on science literacy

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Throughout Australia’s National Science Week, eminent scientists called for urgent action to get more young people interested in science and engineering.

Nobel Laureate Harry Kroto said, “The human race is not going to survive unless some smart kids solve some truly fundamental sustainability problems.”

“But not enough kids want to go into science and engineering to solve them,” said Kroto.

Kroto’s concerns reflected those of UK roboticist Noel Sharkey.

“The number of engineers in the west is dropping dramatically. It seems dull and boring to people, whereas if you go to India or China everybody there wants to be an engineer,” says Sharkey.

“We need to enthuse the next generation of scientists and engineers.”

Enter Exeter High School science teacher Jane Dadson. She has hit on a unique way to boost science in schools.

150 Year 9/10 students are presenting science shows to local primary students. And so far over 200 primary students have been excited dramatic demonstrations of plasma balls, hydrogen fuel, static electricity, flight and much more.

“The Energy Fair works at three levels,” says Dadson. “Firstly the fair empowers secondary students to talk about and demonstrate science – to rekindle and share their natural curiosity. Secondly, it gives primary students a great hands-on experience. And thirdly, when primary teachers see secondary students performing experiments, it shows them that science can be easier to demonstrate than they think.”

“We also show primary teachers how they can use the new Essential Learnings framework to teach students to inquire and question what they see around them. “

“And that’s what every young person is going to need to be an effective citizen in the 21st Century. Every day we face decisions about science – for pulp mills, to mobile phones, to cloning and gene technology. We need to give young people the knowledge and skills to rationally evaluate competing claims about science. This needs to start in primary school.”

Dadson hopes that every secondary school in Tasmania will pick up the concept.

“We’ve developed the Exeter Fair with the help of an Einstein Year grant from the Australian Institute of Physics, and a National Science Week grant (we did I put this in but don’t know if you did get Science Week money). We now have a manual that any school can use to run their own Energy Fair.

Students have been splitting water into hydrogen with a bang all last week. And this week there are two more sessions.

MEDIA ARE INVITED to come along and photograph students in action on Tuesday 30 August from 9.25am to 10.15am and on Wednesday 31 August from 10.40am to 11.30am