Opinion: Cut the crap and teach the cool stuff

We need to rethink how science is taught in our schools

When I was at school, I was often made feel that I was thick because I couldn't get an 'A' in an exam.

I tried my best but was never able to perform on exam days. I was made feel that maths and science weren't for me because of this fact. Now, at 28, I'm aware that I have a more scientific and mechanical brain than most people I know. 

The inability to write definitions word-for-word does not make me a dunce. It means my brain works differently to those who can. Growing up, I wished I was one of them. I'm older now and love the way my brain works. 

I like understanding how things work.

Rather than sitting down to learn the names of different parts of a plug, I sat down at home aged 16, taking laptops apart to build a customised monster computer. By doing this, I learned what wires went where and did what. I enjoyed, and still enjoy, breaking things just to learn how to put them back together again. 

This curiosity has led me to where I am today. 

Despite being deemed not bright enough for honours maths or the physics class in school, I'm the technology correspondent for a national radio station. I spend my day understanding new things and explaining them to others. Everything I do is technical and scientific. But very little of my education was because I couldn't perform on exam days.

What utter BS.

I don't claim to have all or any of the answers, but something needs to be done about how science and maths are taught in schools. 

A survey published earlier this week showed that 40% of students are put off science and technology subjects because they are seen as "too difficult". This does not surprise me. 

 

When I think of science in school, I think of the heavy biology book I had to carry. I remember the girls in my school who did physics and chemistry walking around with huge books and multiple copies, filled with notes. 

It was a pain.

Approach

There's a lot to be said about the approach when it comes to how these subjects are perceived and taught. 

The sciences hold some of the most exciting and interesting pieces of information on the Irish syllabus. There is so much more to it than boring definitions and the odd experiment.

The point I never fully got from the way science was taught to me is how it impacts the world we live in. 

Explain photosynthesis using it's fully scientific definition and you'll see everyone around you wilt, like a plant without sunlight. Explain why a student should care about it, as well as how they can literally witness it and you'll have them gripped. 

That's just one example, but I think you get my point. Taking the boring, heavy bits of science and showing why we should care about them before we understand them is so important. We need young people to be interested and curious about what is going on around them. 

Dull definitions are not the answer. 

We need to encourage students - male and female in equal measures - to embrace the sciences. Understanding how things work and why is invaluable. We want our young people to be curious about the world and to invent new solutions. We want them to have the courage to try and look at things differently. 

Seeing as I'm writing about definitions I feel it's apt to throw one into the mix here. 

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. 

Can we please embrace sanity by shaking up the sciences in our school and showing kids that there's more to it than the books will have you believe?