Science Communicators Versus Science Teachers

Is science teaching congruent with science communication? Do they have the same ideals? What about the pathways that lead to the ideals?

Prof Bryant (2001) defined PAS as having “much broader, emotional and dispositional facets.” Personally, I feel that both science communication and science teaching involve emotional and dispositional facets. As teachers, we pay attention to our students’ attitudes towards the science issues that we cover in class. We, too, focus on role modelling the skills for accessing scientific knowledge. According to Dr Lamberts, “science communication focuses on how and why people appreciate and learn about S&T in everyday life.” I am sure many teachers try their best, within the limited time that they have, to engage their students on the ‘hows’ and the ‘whys’ in their daily classroom interaction. The PAST model suggested by Prof Stocklmayer emphasised the provision of analogous experiences and contextual experiences. I am sure many teachers also try to address misconception from prior knowledge, and provide meaningful analogies to help students make connections, if time permits.

By now, we see a common issue that we all face as teachers: TIME to cover the SYLLABUS (sigh!) to help students ace the ASSESSMENT. With this factor coming into play, the differences between science communication and science teaching surface as well. Unfortunately, in today’s highly competitive society, the outcome of education has become driven by a short term goal – ace your exams gives you a ticket to your dream school/college. While teachers understand the importance of ensuring accessibility of science, they also grapple with the increasing demands of assessments and societal expectations. Remember the law suit against Geelong Grammar School?

We don’t introduce our lessons with jargons but at some point, we have to “teach terminologies” and “scientific keywords” as required by the assessment criteria. Sadly, most assessments today still look like the deficit model. It measures how much one knows, or rather how much one doesn’t know.

The PAST model is an iterative process. The goal of science communication is long term. The public is driven by interest, curiosity and need to pursue free-choice learning of science beyond school.  To achieve life-long learning, it is an intricate interplay between formal education in schools and free choice learning beyond schools. After listening to Neil degrasse Tyson, I have been pondering whether I have been among the 80s or do I aspire to be among the 3s….

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Raffles Museum Of Biodiversity Research Open House

I have always wanted to find an opportunity for my family to visit the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research. When I chanced upon this Open House, there was no hesitation in registering for this rare learning opportunity! It’s a chance for me to learn and for my daughters, A and M, to get enthusiastic about the nature and biodiversity that co-exist in our concrete jungle.

We attended the “Animal Teeth Forensics” workshop and were amazed at the amount of information that can be gathered, just from teeth and skull structure.

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All belonging to carnivores: false gharial, crocodile and the tiger. Notice that the false gharial has a more pointed skull structure than the crocodile but both have monodont teeth. The tiger impresses us with its majestic canines which are used for tearing its prey. The immense jaws of the tiger tells us what a powerful predator it once had been.

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The false gharial

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The huge skull structure and the endless sharp, inward pointing monodont teeth belonging to the shark make it undoubtedly the king of the sea.

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The tiger, on the other hand, has a heterodont set of teeth structure. Being the king of the forest, even its premolars and molars are sharp, all built for the life of a predator!

Our next stop was the “All about Crabs” workshop, conducted by the ever passionate but knowledgable Miss Crabby!

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Miss Crabby took pain to introduce different species of crustacea to us – crab, lobster, prawn, crayfish. Just name it, she probably had introduced the specie to us.

I am most amazed by the coconut crab.

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It is able to wonder from ground to roof with ease. Look at the giant pincers. Imagine how it feels like to get pinched by one of these. There are people who
keep it as a pet!

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Finally, the children were given a crab specimen to observe, draw and name. Cool!

This is definitely a wonderful museum visit and it makes us all look forward to the opening of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum in 2014! It’s high time we pay attention to educating our young the biodiversity that’s left amidst our environment. That’s the least we can do in our bid to preserve, study and protect what we have been blessed with. Thanks for this wonderful learning experience!