Sunday, 10 March 2013

Festival of Physics

I believe that you need three things to be a good science teacher. 1. An understanding of the place of science in the curriculum, 2. An understanding of how children learn and 3. A passion for science for the sake of science. This blog post is about number 3.

When I first started teaching I had come straight from my degree course and to be honest I was "scienced-out". Over the years that has changed a lot. As my degree level knowledge has wained my love of science for the sake of it has increased. So I gathered together my family (partner -48 and step-daughter -12) on saturday and headed to At-Bristol for the IoP-South West Branch Festival of Physics. We saw lectures about colour perception, Astronomy, Molecular Gastronomy and a workshop on the Hydraulics of helicopters.

All three of us had an engaging day; we learned something new from all of the lectures.

The day started with a lecture about colour. It took our key stage 3 knowledge on light a step further. My step-daughter who recently studied light in year 8 was able to happily access the ideas being talked about. The lecturer covered colour addition and subtraction and proved that what we teach at key stage 3 isn't quite the full story.

The lecture about the Universe was nothing that we don't teach at GCSE. However she included information about the astronomers that helped make the discoveries - I didn't realise so many were women! The presenter also talked about amateur astronomy, and showed us some amazing images she had taken, explaining the equipment she used.

The hydraulic workshop was excellent. The presenter works for a company that makes helicopters and despite the high technology involved was able to explain the ideas behind moving the angles of the propellers in terms of year 9 pressure. The teachers in the room (there were 5 of us) were all excited by his equipment and took a lot of photographs to recreate the equipment at school!

The last lecture was about molecular gastronomy. We were shown the RSC video of Heston Blumenthal eating tobacco jelly. Again linking to the curriculum. It was interesting to find out how much your own experiences affect the taste of the food you eat.

I am always impressed that my GCSE and Key Stage 3 science knowledge is enough for me to access a lot of the general interest science lectures and TV programmes. Of course I also have some knowledge of A-level Biology and Chemistry from 15 years ago, and my key stage 3/gcse knowledge is very strong due to 10 years of teaching it!

More than that though, by attending events like this I can relate the work of real scientists to what I teach. It is relevant that students understand about colour addition and subtraction in year 8 if they are to be involved in the digital arts. If cooks and chefs understand that people enjoy food more if it is served off a white plate that will help their business be more successful. I now have some information about how to be an amateur astronomer and may encourage one of my students to get involved in this. Knowing that helicopters use hydraulics may help to engage a disaffected student.

Well done to the IoP south west branch. I am already looking forward to next year!

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