What does literacy have to do with science? Two of our Foundation Centre staff, Alison McManus and Simon Rees, are involved in a large-scale project to explore this topic. Working alongside colleagues from the School of Education, this September they launched the Year of Science, a year-long programme of events to raise the profile of science whilst linking it to other aspects of the primary curriculum in County Durham.
There is a pressing need for increasing the profile of science and aligning scientific inquiry within the context of other core subjects, particularly as the National Curriculum now places greater emphasis on teacher-assessment of science. Moreover, it is important that teachers recognise the significance of science as a core subject and are able to make cross-curricular links.
Science is too often relegated to third place in schools’ priorities, but by making strong links with literacy its position may be enhanced. Students who prefer one subject over another will be more engaged through the use of overlapping topics and cross-curricular links. Having said that, the teaching of science should be more than just coverage through other topics taught in the curriculum, so the launch event helped to uncover methods for teaching scientific thinking as well as will emphasising ways in which science and literacy can be taught and learned in a symbiotic way.
The launch event was a Teacher Training Inset day for the Peterlee Partnership (http://www.peterleepartnership.org.uk/ ) with 34 schools in East Durham taking part. The event was led by Durham University’s School of Education in conjunction with the Peterlee Partnership and involved sessions on the use of debates, developing students’ questioning and critical thinking skills. The keynote address was given by Lord Robert Winston, doctor, scientist and television presenter. His presentation was engaging and thoughtful, encouraging teachers within the Partnership to think carefully about the value of both science and language.
Simon and Alison presented a model debate and led a discussion on whether or not science and literacy can be better taught together. They also dressed up in period costumes and Simon took on the role of nineteenth-century scientist Michael Faraday in order to deliver Faraday’s famous ‘Chemical History of a Candle’ lecture. This reconstruction was well-received and provided the catalyst for an activity which schools will complete over the coming academic year. Schools in the Partnership are going to each select a different scientist to feature during some events for children during the year. Suggestions included Charles Darwin, Marie Curie, Guglielmo Marconi, Rosalind Franklin, Albert Einstein, Ada Lovelace, and Steven Hawking, with many schools opting to allow their pupils to choose. This will help broaden the scope of science in schools and create a focus for learning. We look forward to seeing the results later in the school year in a really exciting programme of events.