New Zealand Science Teacher

Teacher Education in Science

Science Unleashed: NOS workshop series

Ally Bull and Chris Clay of Auckland University of Technology’s (AUT) Educational Futures Network are hosting a workshop course over September and October that’s designed to build confidence among teachers to successfully teach and get the most out of the Nature of Science. Ally spoke with NZST about the knowledge she hopes teachers will come away armed with.

science unleashedAlly sees these workshops - entitled Science Unleashed - as quite different from the other Nature of Science (NOS) she’s undertaken, in that her and Chris are trying to help teachers “embrace complexity”.

“Traditionally, science has been taught by breaking things down into little bits, to identify the building blocks that make up the big picture. What we’re trying to do here though is capitalise on complexity, which is based on the idea that, in today’s world, you need to be able to find problems, not just solve them.

“It’s also really about the power of different people working together. Chris and I are really different people, and we’re from really different backgrounds. What we’re imagining that these workshops will be like is that he will run some really exciting, hands-on, makerspace type activities: the sorts of things that teachers are generally pretty excited about at the moment. But all through the workshops, we’ll have what we’re calling ‘press pause’. So Chris will do something with the group, then we’ll press pause and I’ll come in at a meta level and have a discussion that asks questions like ‘how is this different from what we’ve done in the past?’ ‘How is this developing ideas about the Nature of Science?’ How is this helping us to embrace complexity?’ We’re trying to give teachers experiences in working with science, but also give them opportunities to think about it and what it means for their practice.”

The workshop series happens over four separate sessions. At the beginning, teachers will receive a box containing all sorts of science related equipment in it, that they can take back to their own classes. Each week, Chris and Ally will be using one of the objects in the box in demonstration and discussion. The idea is that teachers will, before the next session, recreate the activity and learning objectives with their own students. This then provides opportunities for discussion as to how the activity went at the next Science Unleashed session.

At this stage, the exact details of the contents of the box and the surrounding activities are being finalised, but Ally gives an example of an idea that her and Chris have discussed, to illustrate how they’re going to help teachers grasp complexity, which could be intimidating.

“One idea we’ve talked about is to make little rockets with film cannisters, baking soda and vinegar. We’ll give people the equipment, but with no instructions on how to build their rocket. We’ll let them explore for a while, then we’ll stop and learn from each other about things like what proportions of ingredients people used. The point is that we’ll be ‘crowdsourcing’ ideas, so everyone benefits from the collective investigation, not just the work of the individual.”

“Really what we’re trying to do is combine the makerspace element with meta-level discussion.”

The Science Unleashed workshop series will be held at AUT’s North Campus between 4.30 and 6.30pm, on the 14th and 21st of September, and the 12th and 26th of October. You can register by clicking here.

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