Science is recognised as a pathway to innovation, and environmental science plays a significant role in meeting the new global challenges of our time. In Australia, environmental science is among the world’s best for quality, with our strengths lying in water science and technology, ecological modelling, and nature and landscape conservation. The Australian Government has recognised the critical importance that Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) will have in current and future productivity and, as a consequence, has increased primary and secondary school funding with the view to increasing STEM skills in Australia’s future workforce. This presents us with an opportunity to enhance and support this process by tapping in to the immense knowledge and experience of our environmental scientists and utilising them to directly teach their science within our schools.
“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science.” – Carl Sagan
The Australian Curriculum states that “environmental scientists strive to understand past and present processes so that reliable and scientifically-defensible predictions can be made about the future”. Environmental science offers endless possibilities to create new solutions to our current and future global problems. But how do science teachers best approach teaching environmental science in schools? This becomes an even more pertinent question when considering that reports in Australia, the U.S.A and the U.K. have shown that a significant portion of primary school teachers do not feel confident teaching science. Considering that there is an overall demand for more science, but many feel this lack of confidence teaching environmental science, there is an opportunity for environmental scientists themselves to play a pivotal role in the development of STEM skills by teaching science in Australian schools.
What we do know is that a confident teacher delivers a quality lesson and this has been shown to then directly impact a students’ perception of a given subject. We also know that we learn best when we’re having fun. With this in mind, environmental scientists are perfectly suited to deliver quality lessons in a hands-on context. Their field of work in itself naturally offers opportunities for investigation and query, and even better, can be delivered as outdoor education where children readily engage. Environmental science students may take excursions to a creek to measure water quality or to a rainforest to identify flora and fauna species or even simply venture into their playground to investigate the environmental opportunities that might be found there. Not only are these outdoor classrooms fun and interactive, these types of scientific inquiry methods do result in real-world solutions such as better resource management and conservation of natural areas.
Given the many benefits of the teaching methods environmental scientists have at their disposal that engage their participants in the investigation of real-world settings, who better to encourage wonder in the relationship of living and non-living things and help us find solutions to environmental problems than the environmental scientists themselves?
Citations:http://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/2013/08/speech-the-role-of-environmental-science-in-meeting-australias-future/ https://studentsfirst.gov.au/strengthening-australian-curriculum http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/SeniorSecondary/Science/Earth-and-Environmental-Science/RationaleAims Morgan, A. (2012). ‘Me as a Science Teacher’: Responding to a Small Network Survey to Assist Teachers with Subject-Specific Literacy Demands in the Middle Years of Schooling. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 37(6). http://ro.ecu.edu.au/ajte/vol37/iss6/6/