Contemporary Science

You’ve read about nanotechnology or seen the space shuttle crash. Set beside the news, school science seems centuries old. But at Garth Hill school in Bracknell, science teaching gained a contemporary edge with the help of “Upd8” from the Association for Science Education (ASE). The Upd8 team produces topical lessons based on current news and then beams out weekly emails and text messages to teachers. Garth Hill is one of several schools trialling this nifty Planet Science and IBM-funded “alerting” service. Head of science Diane Allum Wilson was one of the first to sign up. “At the peak of the Sars epidemic, they sent an idea on how to simulate the spread of the disease across the school. We gave pupils a leaflet meaning that they ‘caught’ the virus. In turn they passed it on. The whole school took part through lessons, breaks and lunchtimes. The kids really did understand how infection travels.” And when Michael Jackson famously dangled his baby from a window, Wilson’s pupils started asking why the baby had white skin. In timely fashion, the Upd8 team produced a ready-to-roll lesson on genetics. Allum Wilson finds colleagues run easily with these ideas. “The ‘here’s a lesson you can do’ approach worked well. Best of all, the work generated interest and excitement.”