Home' Teacher : July 2010 Contents 24 TEACHER JUNE/JU LY 2010
I was smiling so much my face was
starting to hurt. Look at all that learning, I
thought to myself.
Then came the com ment that made me
stop in my tracks. 'We're so, like, feminist.'
I've never thought of feminists and physics
in the same sentence before. It was quite a
revolutionary idea for all of us.
At the end of the class we discussed the
different components that we'd found in
the equipment. We discussed the reasons
for the differences in the sizes of the circuit
'Where would we be without physics?'
I asked. This was real science, but had it
helped to change attitudes? Would this new
hands on approach help get me enough
enrolments to run a Years 11 and 12 phys-
ics class, or was it too little, too late? Would
simply pulling apart electronic equipment
help these girls believe they could do physics
in Years 11 and 12?
Of course not, I told myself, but it's a
start and we all have to start somewhere.
Hopefully we started to break down a few
mental barriers, and even if all I did was
raise my students' curiosity about how stuff
works so that next time their MP3 stops
working they consider fixing it themselves,
that in itself, has to be a valuable thing.
* Stude nts' names have been changed.
Emm a Rhodes teaches Science at Clon ard
A version of this article first appeared in
Looking into Practice: Cases of Science
teachers' professional growth, published by
Monash Print Ser vices/Catholic Education
Office, Melbourne, as part of the Com-
monwealth government's Qu ality Teacher
Program. Reproduced with kind permis-
sion . For the full set of cases on which this
series draws, see Berry, A., & Keast, S.
(Eds). (2009). Looking into Practice: Cases
of Science teachers' professional growth
Melbourne: Mon ash Print Services/Catho -
lic Educ ation Office, Melbourne.
Em ma Rhodes, in describing how she dealt
with a group of girls who had already decided
that physics was not for them, asks a signifi-
cant question: how do we best encourage
participation in science? That question, of
course, raises another one: who is sciencefor?
Consider how scientists are portrayed in
our mass media. If most people were asked
to describe or draw a scientist the image
formed is usually a male wearing glasses
and a white lab coat, with uncontrollable,
crazy white hair! Do all scientists look like
How do we combat these entrenched
views and assist students to see what sci-
ence really is, how it is done and who does
it? How do we as teachers introduce science
as interesting, enjoyable and suitable for all
students in our classrooms?
Science classrooms often perpetuate a
view of school science that reinforces the
stereotype -- we even get our students to put
on lab coats to do experiments. A good way
to start countering such stereotypes might
be to get the students out of the classroom,
to investigate science in their local envi-
ronment, for example, looking carefully at
the natural environment within the school
grounds, taking water samples in the local
creek, or tracking the weather patterns for
their area and comparing them with another
region. These are simple things that involve
careful observation and collection of data,
but don't necessarily require the students to
wear a lab coat. Similarly, you might organ-
ise a visit to a local venues to identify the
science done there, for example, to the local
football club to look at the ways a sports
scientist improves the players' fitness and
Completing a tour of a working labo-
ratory may also help students to better
understand some of the work that scientists
engage with and offer them the chance to
think about why scientists do experiments;
it certainly isn't just to prove or demon-
strate a theory they've just learnt. Many
laboratory scientists conduct tests to check
that the processes in a factory are produc-
ing the materials or items as expected. In
the health industry, likewise, scientists con-
duct blood tests, to measure glucose, say,
Scientist-in-residence programs have
operated at many schools in a variety of
formats and can involve a scientist making
regular visits to a schoolto assist withprac-
Who is science for?
ASKING HOW WE BEST ENCOURAGE PARTICIPATION IN SCIENCE RAISES ANOTHER
QUESTION: WHO IS SCIENCE FOR? THE ANSWER, SAY STEPHEN KEAST AND
REBECCA COOPER, IS NOT JUST MEN WEARING GLASSES AND WHITE LAB COATS,
WITH UNCONTROLLABLE, CRAZY WHITE HAIR.
Links Archive May 2010 August 2010 Navigation Previous Page Next Page