I wonder whether we make the most of the wonderful museums that we have in this country. Many are free and offer us an enormous range of collections to view, films to watch, models to touch, interactive displays, models with buttons to press, and more recently there are interactive digital screens that allow us to walk through a virtual world created by CGI. In the reign of Queen Victoria, some of the most impressive free-to-access museums were created for the benefit of the public and they are still there for us today. How many of us were lucky enough to experience a sense of awe and wonder when we were young and taken to a museum like the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum or the Victoria and Albert Museum in London? In the modern age, where children have access to virtual worlds through computer games and tablets, can museums still provide an experience that will interest and excite young children? Is there more that museums can do to captivate the younger generation and stimulate our next generation of scientists?
How often do we ask the children to stop talking? I know I ask it a lot. But in my defence, I ask them to talk a lot too because talking is vital for thinking.
The number of girls and young women pursuing many STEM subjects is lower than that of their male counterparts. It is the same in many developed countries but the UK has a particularly low representation of women in science-related careers. Industries and colleges have set up initiatives to attract women to STEM roles and some of these involve links with schools, both secondary and some primary, but many factors affect a child’s attitude towards science and engineering. This article considers some of these, including the impact of pink Lego.
We are hardwired for stories. We tell them all the time: we tell the stories of our day, the stories of our disasters, stories to surprise and delight and stories to generate empathy and help from others. Psychologists recognise that the story format gets a different kind of attention in our brain – it is ‘psychologically privileged’. Our minds tend to look for cause and effect and even if the information is not presented as cause and effect, we tend to remember things in this way, in this order. Other important factors that our brains listen out for are conflict and characters and complications: we wonder with whom should we empathise in the story and how do they cope with difficult events? So, how can we use this in the classroom?
How often do we, as teachers, make the most of unusual circumstances to provide exciting learning opportunities for our classes? Hopefully, the answer is ‘whenever these opportunities present themselves’ but all too often the pressures of time, the drive for results, curriculum restrictions or an unexpected visit seem to prevent teachers from seeing the potential in seizing the moment, abandoning plans and going a little ‘off piste’.