- Learning Area
Science teacher, Ann, talks about how teaching science has changed over the years and how she is working to create a scientifically literate society.
Ann’s love of teaching science as a subject was sparked after she was given the opportunity to cover a couple of senior Biology classes for a teacher on leave, and she’s been teaching science since 2015.
When asked why she decided to become a science teacher, Ann credited an enrichment program to ‘gifted and talented’ primary school students as her inspiration. She felt rewarded at seeing ‘students' faces light up with each new discovery they made’.
“Having a previous background in science I decided to switch over to high school science teaching,” Ann said. A journey that has put her at the forefront of the ebbs and flows of science as a subject.
“The challenges in teaching science are gradually shifting away from how to engage students towards trying to teach students to critique what they hear in the media and see on social media platforms,” Ann said.
“Students are swamped with misinformation daily and are navigating their way through an increasingly complex landscape. Our role as science teachers is becoming so much more critical in supporting the foundation of a scientifically literate society.”
As a science teacher, Ann is a great believer in the value of a science education, whether a student intends on pursuing science as a career or not. She has witnessed firsthand how it equips students with a lifelong capacity for critical thinking and reflection.
“Students who study science enter the world with higher order thinking skills, and the confidence to analyse situations and sources, ready to solve problems, no matter the context. These are valuable and highly transferable skills that go beyond science,” Ann said.
Ann believes that science as a subject is more important than ever before in our history given the current challenges facing the natural world. Stating that our latest and continuing challenges have all pushed science to the forefront.
“We need scientists addressing our pressing environmental challenges, the ongoing threats of various viruses and potential for new pandemics.
“Every person plays a role through the choices they make every day; a solid scientific grounding will equip us as citizens to face and overcome these challenges together,” Ann said.
Belying the outwardly appearing seriousness of science, is a fun subject for students to learn. Exciting science projects are not in short supply. With research projects such as 'Genius Hour' style activities, open-ended investigations, the new Depth Studies in the senior science subjects and the Science Extension course as a whole, provide students unparalleled opportunities to ask questions, make mistakes, hit dead ends and recover, and make their own choices about what to do next.
“Nothing beats the 'aha' moments for either the student making the discovery or their teacher enjoying the moment,” Ann said.
Menai High School has a strong science culture and a healthy cohort of students studying science subjects. The school supports the succession of science students by facilitating presentations by senior students to their younger peers to help them make informed choices, but the culture propels the subject choices.
“One thing I've loved seeing is the increasing uptake of physics by girls in particular. A few years ago, we would only have 1–2 girls in the class of 24 students, but this has steadily increased now to 10 girls in the current Year 11 class. It's wonderful to see that Physics is no longer viewed stereotypically as a male-dominated field,” Ann said.
“Our team at Menai is brilliant in engaging and exciting students about science and I think this is key. When students regularly line up at lunch or recess outside the staffroom to show a teacher the latest thing they've read or ask an out of course question, you've hit the jackpot with science teaching I think.”