Science as a subject touches the lives of every single person in ways both subtle and overt. Neil Degrasse Tyson has described scientific illiteracy as a "tragedy of our times" and the need to instil a level of understanding about the scientific process and the issues facing us as a species is an ongoing challenge. Science is a subject that therefore links into most other subjects found within the school curriculum, a large number of employment sectors, and other areas such as community and politics. The diagram below shows the connections made between my own practice as a science teacher and other communities.
As I've discussed in earlier entries, I am lucky that my school's vision for education makes finding connections between subjects a core part of our planning and teaching. Looking at the left hand side of the diagram, I have already taught extensively with teachers in every subject specialism listed. Within social studies and maths especially, there has been a lot of cross-curricular inquiry carried out that has linked to authentic, relevant contexts. These links to other subjects within the school are very positive and satisfying as they allow teachers to develop their skills in new areas and to deepen their understanding of the relevance of their subject to a wider context.
Staying on the left, there are links to be further developed between my practice as a junior college teacher and how the subject is taught to other age levels. There is a primary school on the same site as my college, and a senior college a few minutes' walk away, but at present there is little opportunity for planning and curriculum development between these schools. There has been some crossover, for example the conservation day below, but we have very little knowledge of what Science is being taught in the primary school, or what the senior college is focusing on that we could support at the junior level. There's a lot of potential to create contexts that span several year groups and schools, but there is a need to make professional development time available for teachers to meet and plan before this can happen.
Waicare Day with Y5 students, 2013
On the right side are the employment sectors that science teaching links to. Aside from STEM, the links to media, communications, health, politics and conservation are emerging as being increasingly relevant to all our learners no matter where they are headed in their professional lives. The links that I am developing with environmental, conservation and political communities are particularly interesting. As part of our joint English/Science work on sustainability and the Outlook for Someday competition, a group asked if they could interview the environmental campaigner Michael Tavares on tree conservation. He agreed to come in and give a seminar to the whole year group on the importance of activism, being informed about local and wider issues, and what can be achieved through campaigning and raising awareness.
Michael Tavares discusses the need to be an informed citizen
The response students have had to links like this has been explored in my previous post but these connections have helped to reinforce the message that they have power and influence within and outside the classroom, and the difference that can be made through positive actions. It's important to build on the current links being made within the school, and develop links outside it, so that the students can see the relevance of their learning outside of the classroom.