preparing for science year (2001)

Fast forward to the future in Science Year 

Feature by Roger Frost for The Guardian (2001)

Aiming for a world-record, Science Year kicked off on Friday 7th Sept as pupils across the land engaged in a full minute of simultaneous jumping. Synchronised by a clock at a web site, ‘The Giant Jump’ launched a year long campaign that will bring ‘Science’ into the public view.  Amazingly, seismologists had focused their technology on these isles to pick up the merest jitter. And while the jump might have tickled the Richter scale, what they measured is the fun that begins a serious attempt to turn a tide in the UK

As Science Year Director Nigel Paine concurs, the tremor that needs to be felt is the impact of the campaign itself. “It’s an economic imperative”, he explains. “Around about the age of 14 we manage to turn off the majority towards science and they don’t turn back on. It means that the uptake at post-16 and the supply of graduates in key areas is diminishing.” 

And with ICT playing a fitting role, Professor Paine says there’s work to be done to put right the image of science. “What we want to make science exciting, creative, forward looking, and associated with good jobs”.

At the heart of the campaign is a web site that will pool resources being developed by the ASE. Several CD-Roms covering topics such as genes, robots and mobile phone will be sent to schools. For example, there’s one based on the X-files called ‘Flesh Eaters’. It has a story, computer activities and hands-on experiments.

As our ICT ideas (below) are things to engage a whole school, a whole year or just your class. If there’s any shyness about ‘going large’ with science this year, Nigel Paine reminds how other parts of the school seasonally take over the timetable for plays and shows. “It’s about time you had your moment in the sun. For one year we want the same thing for science. We want science to be the subject to make a special effort for with other depts and senior managers involved too. For once we want science to be seen as the heros”.

Classroom ICT ideas for Science Year

·           Research a solar system holiday using the Internet. Then use Microsoft PowerPoint to make a sales presentation about the planets, showing scenery, climate and surface features. For homework, make a traveller’s leaflet with advice on what to pack.

·           Surf the class on the Internet and have them look into the effects of smoking on the body. Invite them to create a factual poster that will dissuade younger children from smoking.  

·           Use a data logger and sensors to look at cooling and changes of state. Or measure see how fast your Cola warms or your coffee cools down. Keep graphs and take photographs to use on the school website.

·           Use Microsoft PowerPoint to set quiz questions or give a slideshow talk. If you’ve no time to learn, then get a class using for a project and learn fast by watching them. For inspiration, see ASE member, Martyn Overy’s work at

·           Grow the science area on the school website and make your science teaching a selling point of the school. Fill it with children’s work.

·           Investigate radioactive materials in safety by using a software simulation. See what radioactivity passes through learn how to protect yourself from it – short of the big bomb going off.

·           Visit a factory that makes crucial products such as cement and water treatments to learn how important limestone is. If there’s no plant nearby, visit one on the Internet. While you are there, check out the costs and use them to model the economics of making lime. 

·           Move your skills with ICT along – learn and teach with an ICT application you’ve long been meaning to. Bite the bullet and make the most of the last tranche of NOF training funds – due to vaporise in March next year.  

*** Advice from the ASE Science Consortium’s NOF programme for science teachers. Web:

ways to put science in the sun in Science Year

·           Visit where you will find copies of the campaign resources, sent out by the Association for Science Education, throughout the year. See where the fun and games in the pupils section connects with their class work and suggest a visit here for homework,

·           Do what you can. If you run a ‘science fair’ activities, use the website to increase their impact by bringing them under the Science Year banner. 

·           Take groups off timetable for enrichment project into UFOs, DNA fingerprinting or gene transplants.

·           Sign up for the Science Year newsletter at the website. Delivered by email, this can be a great way to keep in touch during this important year. 

·           Need to a scientist’s view on anything? Check out the answers to popular questions at      

·           Run a science exhibition at every parent’s event this year.  Dust off data loggers to make displays with graphs and photographs.    

·           Get science into the sun – plan for a future chemistry or physics field trip. Use the centre’s ICT facilities to measure, analyse data, research and present work well. Visit to trigger some ideas.  

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