Wednesday, April 23, 2014

There is still magic in the world

U is for Unusual and unexpected in the A to Z challenge...

As a tweenager, I was somewhat obsessed with all things magic. I am part of the original Harry Potter generation after all. As well as Harry Potter though, there were others. Patricia C. Wrede's enchanted forest chroniclesTamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness quartet but also Orson Scott Card's Enchantment. It was during this phase of my life that I discovered my favourite book of all time - Ender's Game (see the video below for the movie trailer). If you are going to surround yourself with magic and science fiction, and then mix in a very overactive imagination, there is really only one way things will end... A grown up who still believes in magic. The magic isn't so much fairies and dragons anymore though...



Take for example the incredible things shared on www.iflscience.com on a daily basis. On their home page right now is an article about a recently discovered earth size planet in a habitable zone and another about some super massive black holes that were discovered. On the BBC's science page you can find some wonder in the scientist who made an exceptional discovery using a kitchen blender, dishwashing liquid and pencils. It seems there really is magic in the world, and it is found in science.

As a science teacher, I often feel that I have two main goals. The first, is to introduce and expand students' knowledge and curiosity of the marvels, the magic, the unusual and the unexpected in science. The second is to teach them that with great power, comes great responsibility (yes that is a quote from Spiderman, but I think it's from Voltaire originally which gives it a bit more street credit).

With these two goals in mind, think about my term one module called glow in the dark cats. The magic and marvel part is obvious, glow in the dark animals! This then leads you to learn about genes and genetic engineering. And then next thing you know, Voltaire and Spiderman with their idea of great responsibility turn up. Is it ethical to produce glow in the dark animals? Would be it be ethical to apply this technology in other places? Is it ethical to genetically engineer humans?

Again keeping in mind these ideas of teaching science with the goals of curiosity and responsibility, I would like to share with you a plan for our next term at school. English teacher and Deputy Principal Claire Amos and I will be teaching a module all about Ender's Game. While she will look at all thing English (I'm imagining language features, character development etc.), I will have a term to explore the science behind Ender's Game. Think gravitational fields, planets, stars and space travel. It doesn't end there though. Ender's Game as you may know, is centred around the idea of war games. And of course, our students today are very familiar with war games. So what if we could get a real scientist to come and monitor student's brains as they play war games to see if they are affected? Thanks to Claire and her new friend, Dmitry Selitskiy we just might... I will keep you updated.

With great power comes great responsibility, and I hope that all teachers take this to heart. We are able to install wonder, awe and engagement in many of our students. But we can also take it away. How are you hoping to install wonder, awe and curiosity in your students? But also, how are you educating them about the risks and dangers? Energy crisis, future food shortages, over population?