Why do we teach science? Most of us would likely answer along the lines that we want to help and inspire young people to explore the natural world with clarity, insight, excitement and understanding. Perhaps our goal is also to prepare them to tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues and opportunities – from space exploration to finding practical solutions for climate change. With its focus on encouraging children to be curious and creative in their classroom exploration of science, the new Welsh curriculum, presents an especially exciting opportunity to help students to engage with the wonder and potential of science in this way.
The power of science is something with which we are all familiar, and something we’re keen to communicate to our students, but it’s not the only important aspect of science education. Another exciting element of the new curricular approach is that it has the potential to create more space for helping students recognise and explore the all-important limits to scientific questioning and exploration.
The challenges and opportunities we encounter through science are often complex, extending beyond the scope of our scientific knowledge alone. Effecting large-scale change in the face of climate change requires engagement with fields such as politics, and we need to understand a whole host of socio-economic, ethical and other inputs to decide whether we should prioritise expensive space exploration in a world of inequality and hardships. If we want to raise young people who are well-equipped to creatively and confidently engage with world issues, our educational approach needs to create a space which encourages thoughtful exploration of the interactions between science and other ways of thinking – such as philosophy, history, politics, religious faith and ethics.
This integrated approach is not new, many famous scientists, past and present, have recognised and valued the limits of their science and the intrinsic relationship with matters such as philosophy and faith. Today’s young people are part of the age-old human endeavour which has been driven by a fascination with questions like ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Why am I here?’, and the myriad interacting approaches to exploring these. By encouraging curiosity and supporting nuanced, holistic exploration of big questions in the physics classroom, we can help students grow in enthusiasm for and appreciation of the opportunities and challenges they will encounter through science and their wider experiences.
In this workshop we will explore these issues and share practical ideas and resources for helping students learn about the nature of science, and its power and limitations in way that inspires and equips them for the future.
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