New institute to inspire budding scientists

12 March 2010

Inspiring a love of science and mathematics among schoolchildren is the mission of an institute launched on February 26 by the faculties of Science, and Education and Social Work.

Professor and Chair of Education at the Faculty of Education and Social Work, and deputy director of new institute, Michael Jacobson (right), said the institute's focus would be developing new resources, technologies, and teaching methods that can be taken into the classroom.

"A lot of interesting work is being done on how to inspire students' interest in science. Sadly, often it doesn't show up in schools," he said.

The Institute for Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education, as it has been named, will also be developing programs already being run by its parent faculties, including `MyScience', a scheme that pairs university students studying education with university science students and sends them into primary classrooms.

"When science students join student teachers on their practical rounds, the school students really benefit by having someone who can bring the science to life," Professor Jacobson said.

IISME director, Associate Professor Manju Sharma (left), said one of the strengths of the 'MyScience' program had been that the science students' confidence in experiment design had helped the student teachers overcome their scientific reticence.

"Student teachers and primary teachers often won't set up experiments because they are unsure of their abilities, or worried about health and safety issues. But when they are paired with a science student, student teachers can learn how to run experiments."

Dr Sharma said the institute would expand the program and carry out in-depth research to test its effectiveness."We will also conduct research into the reasons why children are turned off science and mathematics early in their schooling," she said.