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science teacher 2012 Featuring: Science & Literacy Science vital for good citizenship! Science literacy using science in media Communicating earthquake science Mind reading: MRI scans Scientists and students collaborate Causal connectives and chemistry Picture books open doors to science Misconceptions about psychology And more...

Number 129

ISSN 0110-7801


THE SCIENCE LEARNING HUB

www.sciencelearn.org.nz Explore the Science Learning Hub to find a wealth of resources for year 5–10 teachers including contemporary science stories, feature articles, people profiles, images, animations and video clips that showcase New Zealand’s world class science sector.

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Editorial Advisory Group: Rosemary Hipkins, Chris Joyce, Suzanne Boniface, Beverley Cooper, Miles Barker and Anne Hume Editorial Address: lyn.nikoloff@xtra.co.nz NZASE National Executive: President: Sabina Cleary Senior Vice-President: Lindsey Connor Treasurer/Web Manager: Robert Shaw Primary Science: Chris Astall Auckland Science Teachers: Carolyn Haslam Publications: Matt Balm Executive Member: Steven Sexton Executive Member: Gerard Harrigan Mailing Address and Subscription Inquiries: NZASE PO Box 37 342 Halswell 8245. email: nzase@xtra.co.nz NZASE Subscriptions (2011) School description Secondary school

Roll numbers Subscription > 500 $240.00 < 500 $185.00 Area School - to be determined TBA Intermediate, middle and > 600 $240.00 composite schools 150-599 $90.00 < 150 $65.00 Primary/contributing schools > 150 $90.00 < 150 $70.00 Tertiary Education Organisations $240.00 Libraries $110.00 Individuals $50.00 Student teachers $45.00 Special Interest Group (includes access to secure sites): BEANZ, NZIC, STANZ, ESSE (was SCIPED) $20 per group Note: SIG fees are included all subscriptions except for individual members. Additional copies of the NZ Science Teacher Journal $32.06 per year for three issues Subscription includes membership and one copy of NZST per issue (i.e. three copies a year). All prices are inclusive of GST. Advertising: Advertising rates are available on request. Please contact Matt Balm, c/- nzase@xtra.co.nz Deadlines for articles and advertising: Issue 130: 20 April (publication date: 1 June, 2012) Issue 131: 20 August (publication date: 1 October, 2012) NZST welcomes contributions for each journal. Please refer to the NZASE website or contact the editor (nzst@nzase.org.nz) for a copy of the NZST Writing Guidelines. Disclaimer: The New Zealand Science Teacher is the journal of the NZASE and aims to promote the teaching of science, and foster communication between teachers, scientists, consultants and other science educators. Opinions expressed in this publication are those of the various authors, and do not necessarily represent those of the Editor, Editorial Advisory Group or the NZASE. Websites referred to in this publication are not necessarily endorsed.

Editorial 2 From the Presidentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s desk 3 Science & Literacy: Theme: science and literacy 4 Science literacy developed using science in the media 5 Science is vital for good citizenship 11 Are science students taught to communicate? 13 Teach food science to improve health outcomes 15 Mind reading: communicating the boundaries of brain imaging... 17 Communicating earthquake science 19 Misconceptions about psychology 21 Science literacy is vital 23 Blogging and the nature of science 25 Promoting science: John Campbell reminisces 27 Scientists and students collaborate in authentic learning 30 Teaching causal text connectives in chemistry 36 Primary science Role play gives student teachers insights 39 Picture books open doors to investigating ... 41 Science/Science Education Interface Conversation: seeing fungi... 48 Subject Associations BEANZ 43 Chemistry 44 Physics 45 ESSE 46 STANZ 47 Resources NZST Writing Guidelines 4 Book review 45 Ask-a-scientist 10

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NZST PublicationTeam: Editor: Lyn Nikoloff, Bijoux Publishing Ltd, Palmerston North Sub editor: Teresa Connor Typesetting and Cover Design: Pipâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Pre-Press Services, Palmerston North Printing: K&M Print, Palmerston North Distribution: NZ Association of Science Educators

C Cover photo caption: Dr. Mark Quigley and Ph.D. student, Timothy Stahl from the D Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Canterbury, stand in a ground crack tthat resulted from the September 2010 magnitude 7.1 Darfield earthquake in Canterbury. T These features developed as a consequence of landsliding in the Harper Hills northwest of H Hororata. Mapping of them provides insights into the ground conditions and earthquake sshaking attributes that favour landslide initiation. Photograph courtesy of Mark Quigley. P

New New ew Zealand Zea eala land nd d Association Ass sso ocia ocia oc iati tion on n of of Science Scie Sc ieencce Educators Ed duccat ator orss or

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communicating science Welcome everyone to 2012, and after the year that was I hope this year proves to be a good one for you all, especially our colleagues in Christchurch. Towards the end of 2011, the Editorial Advisory Group (EAG) met to plan the 2012 themes for the NZST. At that meeting it was agreed that the EAG should publish writing guidelines to encourage and guide prospective authors. These guidelines are published in this issue (p.4) and are also on the NZASE website. We hope you find them helpful. Also, at the EAG meeting it was agreed that each issue will have a brief article from a member of the group, highlighting the importance of the issue’s theme and how it is relevant to science education and educators. In this issue Rosemary Hipkins introduces you to science and literacy (p.4). I am delighted to introduce to you internationallyrenowned science literacy experts: Billy McClune and Ruth Jarman from Northern Ireland. In their article they describe how you can use science in the media to teach science literacy. I strongly urge you to read their article (p.5). This issue also features a range of contributions from some high profile, award-winning science communicators. Their articles highlight the importance of scientists who can communicate well and in a timely manner. They also bring to your attention your role in teaching communication skills. We are delighted to publish an essay written by Sir Paul Callaghan. Sir Paul writes about the importance of having a scientifically literate population to ensure good citizenship, and why science teachers must engage their students in science as a career (p.11). “Who should be responsible for communicating science to the public: scientists or media?” asks Ian Shaw, recipient of the 2009 NZ Association of Scientists’ Science Communicator Award. In this imminently readable article, Ian posits that science teachers must teach science communication skills to their students (p.13). I must put my hand up and admit that I am a Mark Quigley fan! All my family live in Christchurch, and when the earthquakes rocked the city in 2011 who did I turn to for rational, factual information? Mark Quigley, recipient of the 2011 Prime Minister’s Science Communication Prize. I commend to you his article about the challenges of communicating science in a developing situation, and the importance of anticipating the publics’ thirst for facts. And Mark’s article exemplifies why he has set a new benchmark for science communication. His article is a must-read for teachers, students and the wider community, especially if your school is located in Christchurch (p.19). And I am sure, thanks to scientists such as Mark, geology may just become a cool science career choice! Can any of you recall the media hype in late 2011 about a lead article in the New York Times claiming that scientists could use MRI scans to show that we have compassionate feelings and love for our iPhones? Donna Rose Addis, recipient of the 2010 Prime Minister’s MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Prize, writes about the importance of communicating the boundaries of brain imaging to ensure that such articles fail, in the future, to gain any traction (p.17). There has been increasing concern about obesity rates in New Zealand, and yet while we are eating more we are

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lacking in vital nutrients. Simon Loveday writes about why we need to teach food science in our science programmes to help fight these twin problems (p.15). Many of us have misconceptions about science, and many of us do not like it when our misconceptions are challenged. For example, do you recall the furore (there were two camps; pro and ante) over Ken Ring’s predictions about full moon initiated earthquakes? Marc Wilson, a recipient of the 2010 NZ Association of Scientists’ Science Communicators Award, writes about psychology and how the confirmation bias can make communicating science (and psychology) challenging (p.21). Science literacy is vital. The Science Media Centre (SMC) is acting as the meeting point for media and scientists to ensure that science-related stories are posited in facts not pseudoscience. The SMC also has some great resources for teachers, as Peter Griffin explains (p.23). There is perhaps no better forum to engage the informed (and the ill informed) in debate than by blogging. And Alison Campbell is a veteran science blogger who shares with us how blogs can be used to teach the nature of science (p.25). John Campbell has been a science communicator, since… well since he gained his PhD many years ago. John takes us on a tour de force of his science promotional activities, and in so doing reminds us all that there are many ways to engage the public (and students) in science; all you need is passion and a sense of humour and make it heaps of fun (p.27). A unique collaboration between scientists from Massey University and students from Mercury Bay Area School, led to an authentic investigation for students. The collaboration was a huge success, with the students engaged in an investigation for which, at that time, there was no answer to the question (p.30). We hope their experience inspires you to explore your own science-student collaboration. David Whitehead and Fiona Murphy became aware that chemistry students were struggling to answer the long answer Level 2 NCEA Chemistry questions due to their lack of understanding of causal text connectives. This led to a successful literacy intervention (p.36). For our primary science educators this issue has two interesting articles: the first focuses on the use of role play using the Primary Connections programme (p.39) and the second article explains how picture books can open the door to investigating science (p.41). Recently, Miles Barker and Carolyn Haslam had a conversation with Peter Buchanan about the benefits of encouraging our students to see fungi (p.48). And check out your standing committee’s report, including: more changes to the periodic table (p.44), making a sound mirror (p.45), ocean science literacy (p.46) and a report on CONSTANZ (p.47). I would like to thank all the contributors for their support of the NZST and for giving so freely of their time to enable us to bring to your attention the importance of science communication and science literacy. Enjoy this rollicking great read!


As we move into 2012 and the implementation of the aligned NCEA achievement standards at Level 2 it is important to reflect on how implementation of the new Level 1 standards has gone. Science faculties have been reviewing their programmes of learning for Year 11 during 2011, and using that information to inform programmes for 2012 at both Year 11 and Year 12. This iterative cycle of inquiry is vital in understanding how different groups of students learn and what is important for them to know and do. The New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER)’s Competent Learners @ 20 key findings (2011) has reinforced the importance of interweaving the development of attitudes such as perseverance, communication, self-management, social skills and curiosity with specific learning area objectives. The new internal achievement standards provide a valuable opportunity to do this, with their emphasis on the nature of science rather than recalling of facts. Teachers have been developing programmes and tasks that entail current, relevant contexts that help students develop a better understanding of what science is, what questions science can answer and the limitations for scientific knowledge. The Canterbury earthquake sequence, recent evidence gathered at CERN about the speed that particles can travel, and the Rena oil spill are examples of topical opportunities that teachers can use to foster curiosity about science and develop scientific literacy. Many schools are successfully planning and delivering programmes that encompass the intent of New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) and are developing formative and summative assessment opportunities to meet the learning needs of all students. There is encouraging anecdotal evidence from teachers about increased engagement and positive outcomes for many students. These changes are particularly evident in groups of students who have previously struggled in science – often these are our Ma¯ori and Pasifika learners. The 2006 and 2009 PISA results highlight the need for science teachers to continue to develop their understanding about what they can do in their classroom to improve outcomes for Ma¯ori and Pasifika students. Here are five great resources: 1. NZQA subject specific pages. The NZQA subject specific pages provide a valuable resource for teachers to

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support the implementation of the aligned standards. 2. Moderation best practice workshops. These workshops have been well received and provide an opportunity for teachers to gain a better understanding about the intent of the standards. The news that they will be free to attend in 2012 is welcome and I would encourage as many teachers as possible to attend. 3. NZQA teacher support. NZQA’s increasingly proactive moves to support teachers also include the Myth Busters series which clarify some common misconceptions around NCEA. The alignment process has provided a valuable opportunity for teachers to rethink assessment processes and carefully consider not only the number of credits offered, but also the best way that each particular standard could be assessed with each cohort of students. Group assessment and portfolio assessment offer exciting alternatives to traditional methods of assessment in our curriculum area and many science teachers have trialled these with great success in 2011. 4. The secondary science teaching and learning guide. The guide has been under development during 2011. This guide contains resources to support teachers in creating quality teaching and learning programmes and in the alignment of the standards to the NZC. In addition to this guide, the Ministry of Education have responded to the call for more support by providing four additional NCEA alignment days over the next two years. 5. NZASE developing new assessment tasks. NZASE have been developing new assessment tasks for a range of standards to support science teachers nationwide. The focus has been around providing tasks that will engage learners who have not been engaged by science in the past, and have been written in a way that can be accessed by these students and provide the opportunity for achievement at all levels. It is up to us as professionals to continue to work collaboratively over the coming year to make the best use of all the available resources, and the experiences from 2011, in order to create the best possible outcomes for all of our science learners. Nga mihi nui Sabina Cleary President NZASE

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NECTIONS

SCICONnections is the NZASE biennial conference

Making Connections 1 to 4 July, 2012, Auckland For further information visit www.nzase.org.nz or email Conference Convenor: c.haslam@auckland.ac.nz New Zealand Association of Science Educators

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theme: science and literacy Being clear what we mean by the combination of these terms What a bumper set of articles has been collected to address the ‘science and literacy’ theme. The collection contains three types of perspectives on science-and-literacy as a combination. While these three meanings are interconnected, it is also helpful to keep their differences in mind, writes Rosemary Hipkins, Member of the Editorial Advisory Group. Some contributors focus on basic clarity of writing in a science context. For example, several of the scientists emphasise that clear writing is closely connected with clear thinking, and both are vital for effective, focused communication. The article on causal connectives demonstrates that shaping clearly written explanations requires a set of skills that can be coached with conspicuous success. The article on developing media awareness reminds us that reading skills can also be proactively developed during science learning, but also that an element of media literacy is needed for reading popular accounts of science. Other contributors focus on ‘science literacy’ as meaning understanding the key ideas (i.e. the science content) as a scientist would. We see this in the description of ‘ocean literacy’ and in several scientists’ contributions.

However, this use implies something more than just an accurate knowledge of the relevant science content; people are generally considered to be literate for some other valued purpose. It might be an informed understanding of how our actions impact on the world (as in the ocean literacy article) or how our choices impact on us and others (as in the article about food science) or understanding where new science discoveries are taking us (as in the metagenomics article). Becoming ‘scientifically literate’ can also mean developing an understanding of the ways science works and the types of claims it can and cannot make; this is an important aspect of the ‘nature of science’. Recent critiques (e.g. Feinstein, 2011) have suggested that a helpful way to think about this type of literacy, as a learning goal, is to support students to become ‘competent outsiders’ who are able to use their encounters with science to achieve important goals in their own lives, even if they could not actually engage with science knowledge-building at its cutting edges. Again this edition abounds with ideas for ways to do this that connect with – but also go beyond – ‘content’ literacy as outlined in the paragraph above. Enjoy and be inspired! Ref: Feinstein, N. (2011). Salvaging science literacy. Science Education, 95(168-185).

NZST writing guidelines The New Zealand Science Teacher (NZST) welcomes the submission of quality articles related to science education. Topical contributions might include: discussion of the purposes of science education; responses to science articles published in the journal; curriculum issues, such as the development of Nature of Science approaches; pedagogical challenges and ideas; creative use of existing resources; classroom-based research findings and implications; and development of teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge (which subsumes a focus on students’ content knowledge). The audience for the New Zealand Science Teacher is potentially wide. It includes early childhood educators, primary teachers, secondary teachers from the various discipline areas of the sciences, teacher educators, tertiary science teachers, and scientists with an interest in educational challenges and issues. The structure and tone of articles should demonstrate an awareness of the need to communicate clearly with this wide audience, in a suitable and direct magazine-style of writing. Your topic and the direction of your argument should be clearly apparent in the first paragraph and unfold logically thereafter. Informative sub-headings help to break up the text and keep readers engaged. Formal academic conventions are not mandatory. For example, the use of the first person can be desirable in the interests of clarity and audience engagement. However, this does not mean that rigour is not important. The basis for claims should be carefully developed, with supporting evidence where appropriate. Referencing should be accurate and preferably follow widely adopted APA conventions, but should also be constrained in the interests of brevity. Please consult past issues of New Zealand Science Teacher for format and style cues. Submitting articles for publication It is advisable to seek informed and critical peer feedback

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before submission. Appoint a private mentor to check that you are presenting your ideas in a concise way, that claims are supported, and that the text is free of spelling and grammatical errors. The ‘New Zealand Science Teacher’ is not a formally refereed journal, but all articles will be peer reviewed after submission, and it is common for substantive rewriting to be requested at this stage. Timely feedback from a mentor before submission will help prevent this frustration, for you and for the reviewer, and speed up the publication process. However, if you are a first-time author you are welcome to approach the editor with a view to having a mentor provided to advise you in the initial writing. Unsolicited articles are welcome, but they must meet the editorial requirements as described in these guidelines. Publication of unsolicited material will be subject to the formatting and space restraints of the current magazine edition, and may be held over for future publication. Submission of material does not guarantee publication. All articles should be 2500 to 3000 words in length, and may include up to 3 or 4 images or tables. Articles are to be submitted electronically as a text only document (no layout), including captions and their placement, using Times New Roman or Arial font (12pt, headings 14pt bold). On the first page include: title, name(s) of the author(s) and an email address to which reviews should be sent. Send all articles to The Editor, NZ Science Teacher at: lyn.nikoloff@xtra.co.nz The Editor’s decision about acceptance is final, and will be based on advice received from the reviewers. Publication is conditional upon authors giving copyright to the NZASE. Requests to copy all or substantial parts of an article must be made to the Editor.


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Using science-related news can help develop a student’s scientific literacy, as Drs Billy McClune and Ruth Jarman, from the School of Education, Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland, explain: Introduction Pause for a moment and picture the scene: ‘a vision of the future’ – what comes to mind? For some this might suggest the latest must-have gadget. Less likely is an image of the scene witnessed recently where 70 trainee teachers came together on a one-day ‘science in the media’ workshop as part of their initial teacher training course. This group, however, was the combined science and English cohort of students completing the one-year secondary PGCE programme at Queen’s University, Belfast. Their task was to plan interdisciplinary projects for a school-based science news event. This collaborative event involving science and English specialists learning together is an example of the collaborative working ethos set out in the recent revisions of the Northern Ireland curriculum. The scene described above illustrates in some small way our vision of the future for one aspect of secondary education i.e. the promotion of scientific literacy and critical reading through the use of science in the media. This paper will set out some of the substance behind that vision. In particular, it describes a model of critical literacy in science that brings together science knowledge, media awareness, literacy skills and discerning habits of mind. This model, based on frameworks of learning intentions, is intended to provide teachers with a structured and developmental approach to planning lessons and programmes designed to integrate science in the news into the classroom. This paper will explore opportunities to use science-related news within the curriculum and systematically address key issues in the development of the critical reading skills students need if they are to engage with science in the media. In the following sections we will review some of the reasons for using science-related news reports, and examine the challenges pupils and teachers may face when they encounter this material in the classroom. A ‘learning intentions’ approach to teaching with, and about, science in the media will be explained. Finally, strategies for implementing curricular changes will be considered and relevant resources discussed.

Why use science-related news? It is important to stress that science reported in the media is one of many resources to support pupils’ learning in science. It offers some distinctive opportunities. Jarman and McClune in their text on using news media in the classroom offer a number of justifications (Jarman and McClune 2007). These include factors that relate to newsworthiness and the nature of science news. For example: • it is relevant – useful to show links between school science and the world beyond the classroom • it is engaging – well written in a journalistic style that is designed to catch the reader’s attention.

In addition, they point to learning that derives from the subject matter itself: • it is a resource for learning about science subject knowledge • it is a resource for learning about science practice in the research community. These latter statements require a little more explanation. It is not to suggest that other tailor-made, possibly superior resources are not available for these purposes. Rather, that having engaged students with the news media teachers can use news reports to stimulate further enquiry to provide opportunities for students to explore their understanding and consolidate their learning in relation to both subject knowledge and science practice as revealed in news reports of a research study. Among the unique benefits of science-related news is the opportunity to promote aspects of scientific literacy and provide access to a widening range of cross-curricular themes that science teachers are increasingly expected to address (Wellington and Osborne 2001). These include: • promoting literacy – developing reading, writing, speaking and listening skills while introducing students to a range of scientific writing • supporting citizenship education – e.g. confronting students with a range of sometimes disputed socio-scientific issues.

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What teachers need to know when planning to use science-related news Teachers report that students enjoy activities based on science-related news and are motivated to learn (Jarman and McClune 2002, Kachan, Guilbert, & Bisanz, 2006). However, a number of studies have examined students’ responses to science-related news reports. They suggest that students, including those with a high standard of science education at secondary level, have a limited capacity to critique the claims made in the media (Korpan, Bisanz, Bisanz, & Henderson, 1997, Norris and Phillips 1994, Phillips and Norris 1999, Ratcliffe 1999). Together they highlight the concern that currently science education does not adequately prepare students to engage with science in the news. In particular they note that many students: • are unduly influenced by media reports – often allowing news reports to dominate their previously held views despite the absence of sound evidence • overestimate the degree of certainty suggested by the journalist – e.g. failing to give sufficient weight to words or phrases that suggest uncertainty often associated with science in the making New Zealand Association of Science Educators

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fail to appreciate the need to look for links between theory, evidence presented, and the conclusions drawn • fail to consider the social context of the science reported – giving limited attention to potential conflicts of interest, or evidence of peer review. These observations might suggest that ‘handle with care’ would be appropriate advice to accompany news-based material to be used in the classroom. They also highlight the need for science education that enables students to become critical readers of science-related news; able to strike a balance between skepticism and unquestioning acceptance of the media message; able to appreciate the value of the media as a source of information and questions, but recognising its limitations. It should also be noted that many science teachers expressed a lack of confidence and competence about using science-related media in the classroom. In particular, while subject content presented few problems, aspects of media awareness gave science teachers cause for concern (Jarman and McClune 2002). One response was to consider how the apparent deficit in the science teachers’ experience might be compensated by collaboration with colleagues from other subject areas. Interestingly, in studies that brought science and English teachers together (Alexander, Walsh, Jarman, & McClune 2008, McClune and Alexander 2011) it was evident that these teachers viewed science-related media from different but complementary perspectives. For English teachers it was the subject content rather than the media awareness issues that presented the main challenge. The consequence was that science-related journalism did not appear to have a high profile for promoting scientific literacy or critical reading with either science or English teachers. In order to understand how science-related news might be used more effectively science and English teachers working in conjunction with science and media educators, journalists and others involved in science communication considered the question: ‘What do students need to know in order to respond critically to media reports with a science component?’ The outcome of that study suggests that for a student to make a comprehensive critical response to science-related media reports they must rely, in different measures, on capabilities in four areas. These are: science subject knowledge; media awareness; literacy skills; and a disposition that combines curiosity and confidence described in this model as a discerning habit of mind (McClune and Jarman 2010 & 2011).

A framework for developing media-based programmes These four domains form the building blocks of a framework that can be used to structure programmes of study designed to promote critical reading of Literacy skills

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science-related news media (Figure 1). The framework and the development of its individual elements are set out in full elsewhere (McClune and Jarman 2010 & 2011). Each element of the framework considered in this paper reflects the ongoing refinement of this model and its application to a wide range of media, however, the specific news contexts selected as exemplars are based on written text. They are among a range of resources designed to support teachers as they introduce science-related news into their teaching programme (see Science Newswise 2, Jarman and McClune 2011).

Science subject knowledge The elements of the science knowledge domain are set out in Table 1. These statements are intended to provide teachers with a framework of learning goals to inform their lesson and programme development. They highlight the capabilities students need if they are to access and respond critically to science-related news in the media. Each statement is designated as a foundation, intermediate or higher level learning goal. In doing so the framework supports a developmental approach, recognising that students across the age and ability spectrum may access news articles at different levels with degrees of criticality that are commensurate with their age and ability. Figure 2 is an extract from a news article entitled: ‘How fizzy drinks ‘erode’ young teeth’. The article was initially published in the Daily Mail (London) 2004 but continues to be available online. It usefully illustrates how having access to some of the science subject knowledge capabilities set out in Table 1 might help the would-be critical reader make a response to a science-related news report. In the context of news reporting the full article is comprehensive and provides a commendable amount of detail. This and similar articles, are presented as useful resources for science classes in a variety of contexts (Jarman and McClune 2011). It could, for example, be linked to a theme in the topic ‘Human Body’ or ‘Acids and Bases’. Consider the following analysis from a science knowledge perspective. In order to access the article and respond critically the reader will need to negotiate some technical vocabulary (statement SK 2). In the opening sentence we Table 1: Science subject knowledge: A framework of learning goals Science Knowledge to support the critical reader: the critical reader can… SK 1

Recognise the characteristics of a good science study e.g. elements of a fair test, indication of a reasonable sample size (foundation level).

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Understand the background science e.g. technical vocabulary, subject specific information (intermediate level).

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Appreciate the science-related issues e.g. the status of the topic from a social, personal or historic perspective (intermediate level).

SK 4

Identify key questions to ask when considering the evidence e.g. about the credentials of the research team, the funding sources etc. (intermediate level).

SK 5

Make links between different strands of science knowledge to place the science in context e.g. compare science from a media source to what is already known from other sources (higher level).

SK 6

Be aware of the methods the science community use to communicate and give credibility to new knowledge e.g. peer review publication (higher level).

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Figure 1: Building blocks for critical reading of sciencerelated news. 6

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How fizzy drinks ‘erode’ young teeth From a report by Jenny Hope (Daily Mail 2004)

Figure 2: Extract (1) from a news report - How fizzy drinks ‘erode’ young teeth. read about ‘carbonated water’ and ‘tooth erosion’. Further on we meet the phrase ‘acid in fizzy drinks’ and terms such as ‘molars’, ‘acidic’ and ‘enamel’ are used elsewhere. All these add meaning to the article without which the reader’s comprehension may at best be superficial. In addition to scientific meaning, the ability to link this to other science knowledge (statement SK 5) enables the critical reader to make sense of the article in the wider scientific context; hence the acidic nature of carbonated drinks or the distinction between erosion and decay are concepts with links to other relevant science knowledge. The framework also suggests that to be a critical reader of a science-related news report the student may need to have an understanding of the nature of scientific enquiry e.g. appreciating the ‘characteristics of a good science study’ or the important steps in establishing scientific knowledge e.g. the use of peer review in the publication process or the importance of establishing the credibility of the researchers (statements SK 1& 6). Hence, the critical reader with access to appropriate science knowledge will appreciate the reference to the British Dental Journal as the source of the original publication, they may note that the lead researcher, though not his institution, is named, the views of other experts are reported and some information about the participants and the study may be gleaned from the text (Fig 3). It is also worth noting that in the development of the critical reader an awareness of the absence of information such as that in Figs 2 and 3 would be equally significant.

The structure of the almost 600 word article is pertinent. In the extract (Figure 4) the first 100 words of the article reproduced here are unabridged. The article concludes with a comment from the medical adviser to the National Asthma Campaign. This final 58 word section of the article is again reproduced in full. In addition one extract (46 words) describing an outcome of the study is included. Table 2: Media Awareness: A framework of learning goals Media awareness to support the critical reader: the critical reader can… MA 1

Recognise the structure and format of a news article – the function of different elements e.g. material considered by the journalist to be most important is at the start (foundation level).

MA 2

Use their knowledge of how a news story is put together – identify news values, suggest selection criteria, appreciate how constraints of time or space may influence how the story is reported (foundation level).

MA 3

Recognise that there are different forms of news reporting – hence the intended audience or the type of article will influence the presentation (foundation level).

MA 4

Recognise that presentation and layout may be influenced by commercial factors such as the need to attract a readership, and so generate profit, and by the type of writing (news, editorial, feature) etc. (intermediate level).

MA 5

Understand that images and statistics can be manipulated and a story may become distorted – important elements in the science story may be simplified, sensationalised, misrepresented or omitted (intermediate level).

MA 6

Understand that all media have embedded values – these may have an impact on how a story is reported (intermediate level).

MA 7

Recognise that the balance of all points of view may not be represented – minority views may be given equal weight to those strongly supported by the mainstream science community (higher level).

MA 8

Consider who may have an interest or investment in the views presented – appreciate that this may influence the editorial stance and the presentation (higher level).

MA 9

See how a report may come to reflect the most accessible of the sources – journalists may not have the opportunity to consult widely when researching a story (higher level).

Media awareness A useful starting point for a teacher who wants to promote media awareness is the learning intentions set out in Table 2. They address a number of media related matters and emphasise the importance to critical reading capability of having a grasp of the aims and activities of the media industry. In particular knowledge of how journalists work and an appreciation of how this impacts on news reporting. The nature of news, the working practices of journalists, the value-ladenness of news are among the themes explored more fully by Jarman and McClune (2010) in their discussion of media awareness. Extracts from a news article ‘Chlorine in swimming pools linked to childhood asthma’ (Figure 4.) provide a setting for illustrating some aspects of media awareness. The article was initially published in the Daily Mail (London) 2003, but continues to be available online under a similar headline from the original print version. It can be used to show how the capabilities set out in Table 2 might help the student to read the news article with a critical eye and then respond in an appropriately informed way.

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‘Carbonated Drinks are the "biggest factor" in causing tooth erosion in children, dentists are warning’. Those who drink more than four cans a day are up to 500 per cent more likely to suffer, according to a study published today. It blames the acid in fizzy drinks, which strips the surface enamel of teeth, causing pain, disfigurement and - in extreme cases - eroding teeth to stumps. "While drinking diet versions of fizzy drinks reduces sugar consumption, they are very acidic and can still cause erosion."

Researcher Dr Peter Rock said: “This research identifies fizzy drinks as by far the biggest factor in causing dental erosion among teenagers”. The study - published in the British Dental Journal questioned 1,000 12-year-olds in Leicestershire and found 76 per cent drank fizzy drinks. Professor Liz Kay, from the British Dental Association, said: “Erosion is a growing problem among Britain’s teenagers, yet many parents don’t understand the difference between it and decay”.

Figure 3: Extract (2) from a news report—How fizzy drinks ‘erode’ young teeth. New Zealand Association of Science Educators

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Chlorine in swimming pools linked to childhood asthma Extract from a report by Breezy Marsh (Daily Mail 2003) Chemicals used in public swimming pools could be damaging children's lungs, scientists have warned. They could also be contributing to the unprecedented rise in childhood asthma, cases of which have doubled in 20 years. The damage - similar to that suffered by regular smokers - is caused by harmful fumes released by chlorine, which is used to disinfect water and pool areas. Youngsters, whose lungs are still developing, seem most affected. Dirty and crowded pools carry the biggest risks because chlorine reacts with sweat and urine to give off a toxic gas called trichloramine, which damages tissue deep in the lungs. (100 words) The alarming findings, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, may increase pressure on councils to find safer ways of disinfecting pools. Pregnant women have already been warned against swimming because the high levels of chemicals from chlorine are linked to miscarriages and birth defects. (46 words) Professor Martyn Partridge, medical adviser to the National Asthma Campaign, said he was concerned about the findings. But he cautioned: 'It is unlikely that swimming, at least by itself, could really be the cause for the increase in asthma. 'Much more work needs to be done in this field before we can draw any conclusions and take action.' (58 words) Figure 4: Chlorine in swimming pools linked to childhood asthma. Consider the following analysis from a media awareness perspective. To begin with the critical reader might stop to ask why this article is published. Clearly newsworthiness (statement MA 2), the potentially large audience who might be affected by the issue and so attracted to read the story (statement MA 4), and the ready availability of the source material – possibly a journal press release – (statement MA 9) may be contributing factors. These, more than the intrinsic quality of the science, are factors that may influence the journalist’s and the editor’s selection of a news story. Furthermore, media awareness should inform the student’s views about the nature of news and journalists’ working practices. Statement MA 2 also reminds the reader that other constraints – including preparation time and space available for the story – influence the final outcome. News is selected and constructed, and this has the potential to distort a story by oversimplifying or sensationalising it. Some startling assertions are made in the opening lines of the report. The final paragraph however, has the effect of moderating these somewhat. This article is given sufficient coverage to allow this final comment to be included. This is not always the case and the media-aware reader will know that articles are written to allow for editorial cuts that are designed to shorten an article by removing the closing paragraphs until the article fits the allocated space. Statement MA 1 refers to this and other editorial practices, including the conventions surrounding headlines which often convey a degree of certainty not warranted by the science research reported. The intention is to alert the critical reader to be wary of the editor’s influence, particularly on shorter articles, always considering what may have been omitted.

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Table 3: Literacy Skills: A framework of learning goals Literacy skills to support the critical reader: the critical reader can… LS 1

Demonstrate basic reading and comprehension skills (foundation level).

LS 2

Use appropriate reading skills for different formats – text, images, graphs, tables (foundation level).

LS 3

Understand the format of non-fiction text (intermediate level).

LS 4

Distinguish between fact and opinion (intermediate level).

LS 5

Identify neutral and emotive language (intermediate level).

LS 6

Give reasons why they agree with statements, or would seek more information (higher level).

LS 7

Demonstrate appropriate interpretational skills – recognise limiting clauses, read for inference (higher level).

The published article provides a substantial description of this scientific study but does not place it in context of other research into the causes of asthma. One opposing perspective on the findings may, in media terms, be an indication of balance, however, there is no way of knowing if this is a minority view not supported by the mainstream of science opinion. Hence, the value of statement MA7. Finally, when considering who may have an interest or investment in the views presented (statement MA 8) the critical reader might note the suggestion in the article that these findings ‘may increase pressure on councils to find safer ways of disinfecting pools’, also a reference is made to alternative, but more expensive, ways to disinfect swimming pools. It is for the reader to ask who might benefit as a result of this study being communicated directly to a lay audience?

Literacy skills Media text can be used both to develop and consolidate core literacy skills. The learning goals underpinning the literacy skills’ domain are set out in Table 3. These statements will provide science teachers with a framework of learning goals to help them address literacy issues in science. In addition, they will provide a common language as a way into literacy across the curriculum and a foundation for engagement with the colleagues from the English department in collaborative work. These statements anticipate the needs of pupils at different stages of development and with different levels of experience. They highlight the literacy capabilities students need if they are to access and respond critically to science-related news in the media. Figure 5 contains extracts from a news article: Sonic Youth Deterrent ‘should be banned’. The article was initially published in the Telegraph (London) 2008, but continues to be available online. This science-related article links well with students’ experience of school science experiments used to determine the range of human hearing. The loss of hearing in the higher frequency range which many older people experience is often highlighted in this demonstration. The article, however, primarily addresses a socio-scientific issue and can be used to illustrate how having access to some of the capabilities set out in Table 3 might help the would-be critical reader make an appropriate response to a news report of this type.


Figure 5: Extracts from Sonic Youth deterrent ‘should be banned’. The article contains some factual statements that students might locate, for example, describing the device as ‘indiscriminate’, stating that the device has ‘a 15 metre range’ or highlighting the ‘75% fall in crime’ at one local shop. However, the article also reports that: is it the Children’s Commissioner’s belief that the device is an infringement of human rights. Similarly, the opinion is expressed that the device has no place in a country that values children – are these opinions that could be disputed? (See statement LS 4). To say the sound causes discomfort would be an example of relatively neutral language, whereas describing the output as ‘a high-pitched whine’, or to portray the purpose of the device to banish youths engaged in antisocial behaviour is probably intended to cause a reaction on the part of the reader (statement LS 5). Similarly, describing the device as an ultrasonic deterrent and as a ‘sonic weapon used on children’ (though students displaying their grasp of science knowledge might challenge the use of ultrasonic here) is more likely to engender an emotional response. By encouraging students to separate fact from opinion in a science-related article we encourage them to scrutinise the text. By drawing attention to the way the media message aims to engage the reader’s emotions, we highlight the differences between this and traditional scientific writing such as pupils read in textbooks and write during science lessons. In so doing we empower them to be critical readers able to analyse and question what they read and how they might be influenced by science that they meet outside the classroom. Two images accompanied the text, one portrayed fresh faced school children supposedly in the vicinity of this device experiencing some discomfort, the other pictured the device caged behind a metal grille – providing a good example of the potential impact media images can have and thereby an important literacy learning point addressing

Table 4: Habits of Mind: A framework of learning goals Habits of mind to empower the critical reader: the critical reader has… HM 1

Enthusiasm – which fuels an interest in discovering more about science in the news (foundation/ intermediate level).

HM 2

An appreciation of the value of science-related media – keeping us alert to important issues, providing a siren call (foundation/intermediate level).

HM 3

An open enquiring mind – able to question appropriately and with insight (foundation/ intermediate level).

HM 4

Appropriate confidence in their own opinion – able to make informed judgements about science-related issues (intermediate/higher level).

HM 5

A positive view of the role of news in developing informed opinion (intermediate/higher level).

HM 6

An understanding of the place of science and science news in communities, society and as part of culture (intermediate/higher level).

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statements LS 2. The issue of images is dealt with more fully elsewhere, (Jarman, McClune, Pyle and Braband 2011). The article might challenge pupils to consider the science content by trying to understand how science knowledge has been used to ‘solve a problem’. In addition, and importantly, students might be challenged to reflect on the appropriateness of what can be done, and also to consider if what can be done should be done. Science curricula increasingly recognise the importance of engaging students with the moral and ethical issues associated with socio-scientific matters as part of a science education that prepares pupils to cope with the impact of science on society’s future and the decisions individuals and communities may have to make.

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Sonic Youth deterrent ‘should be banned’ From a report by Lucy Cockroft (Telegraph 2008) A device used to disperse congregating teenagers with a high-pitched whine only audible to the under-25s should be banned, according to children's campaigners. … critics claim they penalise innocent children and are an infringement of their human rights. “These devices are indiscriminate and target all children and young people, including babies, regardless of whether they are behaving or misbehaving”. “The use of measures such as these are simply demonising children and young people, creating a dangerous and widening divide between the young and the old." “What type of society uses a low-level sonic weapon on its children? Imagine the outcry if a device was introduced that caused blanket discomfort to people of one race or gender, rather than to our kids,” “People talk about infringing human rights but what about the human rights of the shopkeeper who is seeing his business collapse because groups of unruly teenagers are driving away his customers?” “The noise is only emitted over a 15 metre radius and no one is taking away the rights of teenagers to walk away.”

Discerning habits of mind The framework of learning goals describing habits of mind that empower the critical reader is set out in Table 4 and described at two levels foundation/intermediate and intermediate/higher. These are the characteristics that science teachers might aim to engender as they use science-related media in the classroom. Indeed they are characteristics that teachers everywhere would want for their students. However, although valued as broad aims of education it is perhaps less common to see them linked to specific classroom activities or teaching approaches. Effective use of science-related media can aid the development and consolidation of these characteristics. Science in the media is often describing cutting-edge discovery – recent discoveries and the preliminary findings from experiments with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) based at CERN are newsworthy, but also could fire the imagination of current generations of school children in the way space travel captured the imagination of previous ones. However, science media reports often highlight controversy, or at least difference of opinion. The findings of a study, or their interpretation, may be contested or a particular scheme applying scientific and technological advances may be opposed in, for example, a renewable energy debate. In these situations the broad aims of education noted above can be linked to specific classroom activities or teaching approaches. Many science teachers are familiar with the type of role play and simulation activities, for example, the public enquiry surrounding a proposed wind farm or tidal power scheme that often draw on media sources for New Zealand Association of Science Educators

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information. These can be used to promote the learning goals set out above e.g. (statements HM 3 & 4).

Embedding science-related news in a teaching programme It is important to avoid giving the impression that the science laboratory has become an extension of the English classroom. Science teachers do not have the time, nor the expertise, to take on the role of subsidiary English teachers. Yet many of the learning goals and capabilities needed to be a critical consumer of science-related news are familiar to the English teacher. However, English teachers rarely use science news to promote these. Individual science teachers often undertake science-inthe-news activities. However, the impact on the school science curriculum, of isolated and unco-ordinated activity is limited. Strategies to implement curricular changes and some exemplar resource materials are set out in Science Newswise 2 - a practical guide to using news in the science classroom (Jarman and McClune 2011). The final section of that book is entitled ‘teaming up with other teachers to embed “science in the news” in the school curriculum’. The following summary may be a guide to action. Firstly, it should be evident that the capabilities needed to engage critically with science in the news are genuinely interdisciplinary. Secondly, learning goals could be used as a basis for dialogue between the science and the English teachers. They could discover learning goals that are currently pursued in separate curricular area. It should be a straightforward task to identify when, i.e. at what stage or stages in the subject programmes these goals are addressed. Finally, agree the model of collaboration best suited to the circumstances. Working co-operatively with a high degree of independence or moving towards increasing levels of interdependence by co-ordinating, or integrating teaching. It is our belief that science-related news is an authentic context in which science teachers and teachers of English can come together to advance their individual subject specific goals, and at the same time address a number of other curricular aims including: contribution to literacy, critical thinking and citizenship education. Promoting a critical response to science reported in the media, a

suggested aspect of scientific literacy, is an interdisciplinary task. It calls for a genuinely cross-curricular and collaborative venture. For further information contact: w.mcclune@qub.ac.uk

References Alexander, J., Walsh, P., Jarman, R., & McClune, B. (2008). From rhetoric to reality: Advancing literacy by cross-curricular means. Curriculum Journal, 19(1), 23-35. Cockroft, l. (2008). Sonic Youth Deterrent ‘should be banned’ Telegraph (London) accessed 17/01/2012 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1578387/ Sonic-youth-deterrent-should-be-banned.html Hope, J. (2004). How fizzy drinks ‘erode’ young teeth. Daily Mail (London) accessed 17/01/2012 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-299775/Fizzy-drinktooth-rot-sets-in.html Jarman, R., & McClune, B. (2002). A survey of the use of newspapers in science instruction by secondary teachers in Northern Ireland. International Journal of Science Education, 24(10), 997-1020. Jarman, R., & McClune, B. (2007). Developing scientific literacy. Maidenhead: Open University Press. Jarman, R., & McClune, B. (2010). Developing students' ability to engage critically with science in the news: Identifying elements of the "media awareness" dimension. Curriculum Journal, 21(1), 47-64. Jarman R., & McClune, B. (2011). Science Newswise 2. Hatfield: The Association for Science Education. Jarman, R., McClune, B., Pyle, E., & Braband, G. (2011) The critical reading of the images associated with science-related news reports: Establishing a knowledge, skills and attitudes framework. International Journal of Science Education, Part B. iFirst. DOI:10.1080/21548455.2011.559961 Kachan, M.R., Guilbert, S.M., & Bisanz, G.L. (2006). Do teachers ask students to read news in secondary science? Evidence from the Canadian context. Science Education, 90(3), 496-521. Korpan, C.A., Bisanz, G.L., Bisanz, J., & Henderson, J.M. (1997). Assessing literacy in science: Evaluation of scientific news briefs. Science Education, 81(5), 515-532. Marsh, B. (2003). Chlorine link to asthma surge. Daily Mail London accessed 19.01 2012 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-182679/Chlorine-link-asthmasurge.html McClune, B. & Alexander, J. (2011) Science Literacy and Media literacy: A missing link. Media Education Research Journal, 2(1) 43-56 McClune B., & Jarman R. (2010). Critical reading of science-based news reports: Establishing a knowledge, skills and attitudes framework. International Journal of Science Education, 32(6), 727-752. McClune, B. & Jarman R. (2011). From aspiration to action: A learning intentions model to promote critical engagement with science in the print-based media. Research in Science Education, 41, 691-710 Norris, S.P., & Phillips, L.M. (1994). Interpreting pragmatic meaning when reading popular reports of science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 31(9), 947-967. Phillips, L.M., & Norris, S.P. (1999). Interpreting popular reports of science: What happens when the reader's world meets the world on paper? International Journal of Science Education, 21(3), 317-327. Ratcliffe, M. (1999). Evaluation of abilities in interpreting media reports of scientific research. International Journal of Science Education, 21(10), 1085-1099. Wellington, J. & Osborne, J. (2001). Language and literacy in science education. Buckingham; Philadelphia: Open University.

ask-a-scientist createdbyDr.JohnCampbell Did pre-European Maori count using a base ten decimal system and therefore by inference had invented zero? Peter Clark, Arrowtown Mathematician, Garry Tee, at the University of Auckland, responded: For this question I also consulted Wiremu Solomon. In Polynesian languages quite large numbers were used, for instance when counting fish or yams. In Ma¯ori (as in the other Polynesian languages) the number system is purely decimal, with the numeral words formed on base ten more regularly than the English words. In English, the words thirteen up to nineteen are all formed on the same pattern, but twenty to ninety-nine have a different pattern, and the words eleven and twelve do not follow any pattern. However, in Ma¯ori 1 = tahi/kotahi, 2 = rua, 3 = toru, 4 = wha, 5 = rima, 6 = ono, 7 = whitu, 8 = waru, 9 = iwa, 10 = tekau, 11 = tekau ma tahi, 12 = tekau ma rua, . . . , 20 = rua

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tekau, 21 = rua tekau ma tahi, 22 = rua tekau ma rua, . . . , 100 = rau, 101 = rau ma tahi, 102 = rau ma rua; and that regular pattern continues. There was no concept of zero in Polynesian languages, until it was introduced by pakeha in the 19th century. In New Zealand, the missionary William Williams initially misunderstood Ma¯ ori counting practice, and in the first edition of his Ma¯ori-English dictionary (in 1844) he claimed that Maori counted by elevens. He gave words purported to mean (eleven times eleven) and (eleven times eleven times eleven): actually, they meant hundred and thousand. That blunder was corrected in all later editions of Williams's dictionary – but reports continued to be published until the 1980s that the Ma¯ori used eleven as the base of their number system. For further information: questions@ask-a-scientist.net


Science is dependable, honest, fearless and clear, and causes us to question received wisdom and common sense and that’s a good start on the road to wise citizenship, writes Professor Sir Paul Callaghan, co-winner of the Prime Minister’s Science Prize 2010, and Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year 2011. We live in a world where science and technology are central to our lives, but often remote from our understanding. Science has driven accelerating technological change, rapid advances in medicine and changing social attitudes. Two simple examples, oral contraceptives and cell phones, powerfully illustrate how science changes the way we live and behave. Science also challenges us to decide how we shall use new scientific knowledge, and it sometimes tests our sense of humanity. Sometimes the answer is clear. We choose not to use drugs to run faster in athletics, nor to clone human beings. And just as clearly, most of us are happy to use human-identical insulin made from genetically engineered bacteria, or to take advantage of in vitro fertilisation technology, should the need arise. But when the utility of science is not so clear – as in the uses of genetic engineering to produce tastier apples or nuclear power to run our electricity grid – the answer is less certain. And of course, in deciding on such matters, scientists have no greater wisdom or ethical insight. These are matters that call on the wisdom of all citizens. For most of us, it is sufficient to pick and choose the fruits of scientific knowledge without thinking too much about what science is or how it works. But we are about to be challenged in a brutal manner. Earth’s human population – 2.5 billion when I was born – is set to rise to around 10 billion in the next few decades, making ever increasing demands on Earth’s resources. The human-imposed vulnerability of planet Earth, of its climate and biodiversity in particular, requires ingenious solutions based on environmentally-friendly technologies. Scientific understanding is essential, not only to understanding our vulnerability, but also, to how we might ameliorate environmental consequences. This doesn’t mean we all have to understand science, but we do need to know what science is, how it works, and what its limitations are.

What is science? So what is science? I like Lewis Wolpert’s view the best. It is a way of looking at the world that tries to explain natural phenomena in terms of underlying causes in a way which is self-consistent and corresponds with reality. Archimedes’ law is independent of culture or religion. It is neither good nor bad. It is simply true. There is no agreed definition of science and we scientists get on perfectly well without one. We have just two requirements: all debates are settled in the end by evidence; and all ideas and theories have to be consistent with all the evidence we have. There is no authority in science apart from evidence. No idea is true because the person proposing it is important. Science cannot cling to a beautiful theory in the face of

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a contradictory ugly fact. And in all of the evidence of science, there is uncertainty, sometimes remarkably small, as in the precision with which we can measure the speed of light or the oscillation rate of an electron in an atom, and sometimes exceedingly large and worrisome, as in our ability to predict the future climate of planet Earth. Numbers lie at the heart of science, and we have to know what the numbers mean and what they do not mean. Science is revolutionary. It builds a solid core of established knowledge; but at the frontiers it is in a state of restless upheaval, upheaval that can sometimes reach to the very heart of science. Science is sceptical and always questioning. Wolpert has another definition of science that sums this scepticism beautifully. “Science is a means of discovering knowledge that defies common sense”. It is common sense that the Sun goes around the Earth. It is common sense to say that objects need forces in order to move. It is common sense to say that continents don’t move and that animal species are immutable. It is common sense to say if I throw a coin four times, it is more likely that I get head-tails-heads-tails than heads-heads-heads-heads. Yet all these common sense ideas are wrong. Evolution confounds common sense. Newton’s laws confound common sense. And that is what makes science seem too foreign to so many people. And so in communicating science we need to appeal to a basic human yearning to know and to understand our context. What is nature? How does it work? What is life? How did life come to emerge on Earth and what is the place of humanity in its teeming diversity? What is the place of planet Earth in the cosmos? Where did the cosmos come from and from what is it made? But science has one overriding strength that assists it in its task to overcome our common sense and communicate its beauty and excitement. Central to the values of science is the imperative that ideas must be expressed with the utmost clarity, economy and simplicity. Nature is complicated enough without our trying to make it appear more so. One of the great fallacies about science is that scientists are social misfits who avoid human discourse. Yes, I have met some scientists who come close to that description, but never a great scientist. Science is an intensely social activity, done in partnership, in teams, in the context of the knowledge generated by others. Loners find it hard to get anyone to notice their work. The primary task of the scientist on making a discovery is to communicate that progress clearly to his or her fellow scientists, many of whom will have difficulty understanding the finer details. Nearly all the great scientists have been great writers and clear, if not necessarily eloquent, speakers. But eloquence certainly helps. If you can’t write good prose, don’t even think of becoming a professional scientist, unless you can find a niche role in a team led by one who is literate.

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Motivate children to enjoy and learn science And so I turn to the matter of motivating our school children to enjoy and learn science. This world is an

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extraordinarily different one from that in which I grew up in back in the 1950s when we disappeared after school down to the river bank to play with homemade boats, where we fired shanghais and lit fires and created havoc, never appearing at home until dinnertime, to parents who never worried about where we were. We children talked to each other and argued, and in the evenings we read, even if we sometimes read comics, and we let our imaginations roam free with radio. Fifty years ago the play of young boys (though not sadly of girls) centred around pulling gadgets apart or putting them together. My generation made telephones, put-put boats and crystal sets. In my own case could be added nitroglycerine, Molotov cocktails and homemade firearms. Today, television and the Internet have consumed vast quantities of children's leisure time. And we now live in the throwaway age. Nothing is tinkered with or repaired, only discarded and replaced. Toys have become innocuous and we have even deprived children of fireworks. We need to use e-learning, because kids relate to that and we know that it works. But we also need to put back what has been removed from their play as children. They need conversation, they need practical experience of nature and the world, and they need effective teaching from inspired individuals with all the subtlety and nuance that only real human beings can provide. Indeed, my idea of a science curriculum for primary school would be a form of directed play, in which children gather direct personal experience of the natural world. Instead of primary school children being confusingly taught to learn science concepts by teachers who don’t understand them, I would have them gathering plants and insects and drawing pictures. I would have them playing with water and model boats, building radio receivers, making telephones, shanghais and catapults, making gunpowder and building their own skyrockets. I would have them walking in the hills and climbing trees and then describing all they see. I would have them planting flowers and tending animals. In short, I would put back into children’s lives the pleasure of the natural world, which many of their parents have denied them, either through fear for their safety, or through too tidy a suburban or city living environment. Children need to cultivate their imaginations, their ability to reason and their ability to sense scale and proportion. And they need to experience the pleasure of playing with numbers.

Engage the young scientist But what of those who will be scientists? What of those who make that choice, as is so often the case, in those crucial adolescence years? I think that those first steps on the road to a science future will be made because of a feeling of magic in the childhood experience of the natural world, but that choice will be given some structure and encouragement, in the early secondary school years, by teachers who are able to open windows on understanding. Yet, in imparting science concepts, we need to be sparing, and carefully focused. There is nothing wrong with letting adolescent children learn phenomenology. I would

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give them as much laboratory experience as possible. I would encourage them to take pleasure in the smells and colour of chemistry, the patterns and excitement of physical phenomena, and the extraordinary complexity and diversity of the natural world. I would tell students about the history of scientific discovery. Crucially – and this today is as important to tomorrow’s biologist as much as to tomorrow’s physicist – a foundational platform for a science future is mathematical understanding. That only comes through inspirational teaching. The teacher’s role as a window to another world is vital, and never more so than in mathematics.

Science beyond the classroom And beyond school? What future awaits the student who loves science? Of that I am completely certain. He or she will be in demand. First and foremost, scientists get jobs because employers know that science graduates are motivated to take ‘the road less travelled’, that they have been prepared to face up to real intellectual challenge, that they enjoy solving problems; that they are numerate and that they are (or had better be) literate. We need science graduates in business, in public service, in politics, in the increasing number of jobs that require technical literacy. There is another reason why science, technology and engineering training will open doors for employment in New Zealand. The fastest growing part of our economy is the technology sector, producing $5billion per annum in exports, half as much as dairy, but growing much faster than dairy, at 5% per annum. Most of those businesses are unable to source sufficient skilled employees, particularly engineering graduates, within New Zealand. Most seek new migrants to fill their positions. Our health system has a shortage of nurses and radiologists. Computer systems and networking specialists are in demand, Pilots are in demand. All these professions require a background of school science, and for the better paid jobs, high school mathematics is essential.

Teaching science for citizenship Education is not, primarily, about preparing kids for employment. It is about opening their minds and their hearts to a world of knowledge and understanding and motivating them and equipping them to become lifelong learners. If they fall in love with science then that is a matter for rejoicing, and such an outcome will inevitably be the result of a teacher who has not only a gift in science communication, but who also has personal qualities that resonate with that child. And such a teacher can have a profound influence on all children, whether destined to study science further or not. For all our kids need to know what science is; how it works and what its values are. Science is not the totality of our knowledge. It does not tell us how to live as human beings. Yet it is dependable and honest and fearless and clear, and it causes us to question received wisdom and common sense. That’s a good start on the road to wise citizenship. For further information contact: Paul.Callaghan@vuw.ac.nz


Scientists must communicate their science effectively to fellow scientists and to the public if their discoveries are to be understood and utilised. Despite this, our science students receive little education in the communication skills they will need when they go out into the big wide science world. Ian Shaw, Professor of Toxicology and Director of Biochemistry at the University of Canterbury and recipient of the New Zealand Association of Scientists’ Communicator Award, explores whom we should blame for our science students’ lack of communication skills, and, more importantly, what we should do about it. I am going to try very hard not to make this a rant extolling the virtues of good communication in science. And I am going to try equally hard not to bemoan the facts that the kids of today don’t talk proper English any more – or rather, dnt tlk prpr englsh mate. But I have a terrible feeling I am going to fail! Just in case you decide not to read on, my take-home message is that we must teach our aspiring scientists to communicate well to diverse audiences because if their science is to be useful, people, at all levels, have to know about it.

What is communication? Communication: the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium (Oxford English Dictionary). I always tell my students that it does not matter how good a scientist they are, if they can’t communicate their science they are as good as useless! The key word here is ‘communicate’. ‘Communicate’ means different things to different people, and our understanding of communication has changed significantly over the past thirty or so years. The advent of the electronic age has led to a strange truncated form of communication: just writing the bare essentials to convey meaning. And then the dreaded cell phone (yes I am a tad old fashioned…as you will see later) resulted in not just contraction of sentences, but contraction of words so that only the important letters are used to represent a word. This is all well and good (I suppose) in our fast electronic world where communication has to keep up with the speed of electrons. Such speed does not allow us to think anymore or to be certain that what we mean to communicate is actually communicated. How many emails have you received that have ruffled your feathers because they appeared abrupt? They were probably abrupt, not because their writer intended them to be, but because they were so linguistically contracted that they could be nothing but short in every meaning of that word. This is the environment that our school students are growing in. They evolve their language and communication styles in a truncated, short, abrupt genre that is as good as useless as a medium for communicating precise science. While our students are evolving their communication skills, they not only communicate aided by the newfangled

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methods discussed above, but are also exposed to radio, TV and newspapers. Since being invited to write this piece I have listened more intently to the language of our broadcasters and read more carefully the words of our journalists, and, perhaps more importantly, scrutinised the words of the people they interview. School students are influenced by what they hear, especially if they hear it from someone they respect (or even idolise). I have listened intently to everyone from our Prime Minister to members of the All Blacks…and I am not impressed. If these are the communication skills our students aspire to, we simply can’t expect them to be the great science orators of the future, or, indeed, to speak ‘proper’.

Communicating science There are two important facets of science communication: communicating to other scientists; and communicating to the public. The former has been going on for as long as science itself. The media for this communication are turgid scientific journals and meetings of like-minded scientists in exciting places in the world (a perk of being a scientist!). The communication style here is, perhaps, equally turgid and incredibly precise. Words must be used in a way that their meaning cannot be misunderstood by readers who might not necessarily use the writer’s or speaker’s language as their first language. The antithesis of this is communicating science to the public. This has become more and more important in recent years. Partly because there is a great public interest in science, and partly because science is expensive and scientists should tell the people who are paying for it (e.g. tax payers) what it all means and that it was worth the money. The style of this science communication is much more informal and a lot less precise. Many scientists find this difficult and, frankly, do an appalling job. The territory of science communication to the public is, to some extent, in dispute; who should communicate science to the public? Scientists who know the science, but probably can’t communicate it well at this level, or journalists who probably know little science, but should be able to communicate what they do know, well. I think that scientists should be in a far better position than most of them are to communicate their science to anyone.

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Why bother to teach our students to communicate properly? It is so important that scientists are able to communicate, otherwise the meaning of their work will never be known (at any level). For this reason, teaching our students to communicate properly in a science context is crucially important. I use the word ‘properly’, as your grandmother might, but I mean it (as she did)! In schools, it seems that English is taught in English lessons and Science is taught in Science lessons. Why not mix them up a bit? This ethos is continued at university level. We have heated arguments in my department at the University of Canterbury about whether we should mark exams and assignments just for their science content, or whether we should consider grammar and communication New Zealand Association of Science Educators

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style. I fervently believe we should include the latter in our marking to reinforce the importance of communication. I have heard my students say,“It doesn’t matter what you write so long as the facts are right.” This is a very sad reflection of our teaching compartmentalisation and priorities. I urge my science colleagues in schools not just to teach science, but to teach the grammar and English necessary to communicate science properly – yes properly. You are providing the grounding that my students need and sadly lack.

What are the communication challenges for a 21st century scientist? This week I taught a class of 300 first year undergraduate Chemists the whys and wherefores of the HendersonHasselbalch equation, taught a small Honours class the chemical basis of the toxicity of paracetamol, gave a talk to a community group about cancer, did a radio interview on the environmental toxicity of chemicals spilled from a grounded ship off Tauranga, began recording another episode of What’s Really In Our Food?, and submitted a paper to the New Zealand Medical Journal. This diversity of outputs illustrates well the need for scientists to adapt their communication styles to suit their different audiences; if I had used the same communication style for the episode of What’s Really In Our Food? as I did for the New Zealand Medical Journal, I am sure that television viewers up and down the country would reach for the off button on their ‘remotes’! So, how do I decide which style to communicate in? I don’t have buttons on my chest labelled ‘simple lingo’ and ‘make sure most people can’t understand’ that you can push according to the style of communication you want from me. Instead, I have to assess the situation and use words and explanations that I think will help my audience to understand, while not patronising them. The latter is important because audiences turn off when patronised. In order to make the right communication style decision, I have to have the appropriate linguistic skills up my sleeve. The question is, where did I learn them? To try to determine this, I grovelled about in our loft where all the things I thought I’d never need reside…and I found my school science exercise books, and, yes, my 5th form (1971) Biology teacher had harangued me for my poor use of English. Good man! He had corrected every spelling error, every grammatical travesty (and there were many) – he wrote at the bottom of my essay on adaptation of plants to their environment, ‘see me’. I wonder if I did. I then found an essay on poly-ADP ribose that I wrote in my third year at university (1977) and, yes, my tutor had corrected grammar and even suggested how to word something ‘more scientifically’. I wonder if this is where I learned to communicate science; if it was, our students are not getting the same advice which does not augur well for science communication in the future.

Changing face of science communication I have been gently (for me) making a plea to turn the clock back a few years and return to teaching our aspiring scientists to communicate well, but this might not be what we need. As time goes by the emphasis is turning away from science per se and towards its effective communication. This is because there is an increasing need to explain complex science to the public. Perhaps the way forward might be to teach our journalists science so that they can better understand what they communicate. There is a very welcome, in my opinion, trend towards scientists becoming journalists by taking advantage of postgraduate diplomas in journalism. I applaud this because journalists are taught to communicate, and if the 14

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starting material is a scientist, the combination can be very powerful indeed. The problem is that journalism is changing. The sound bite is de rigueur. In-depth analysis is out. Therefore, our e-society communicating in truncations has influenced, or been influenced by, journalists who also speak in clipped tongues – sound bites. Despite this, the advent of the science journalist is a ‘good thing’ (as W.C. Sellar & R.J. Yeatman the authors of 1066 and All That might have said) because it is taking more reliable science to the general public. The fact that major newspapers employ science journalists means that the public wants to know about science, and this really is a ‘good thing’. Scientists must not, however, rest on their laurels in the misguided assumption that science journalists will do their communication job for them. They won’t. Science journalists choose what they communicate – the sexier the better! Scientists who communicate well are far more likely to get their science known and recognised. Some of the world’s top scientists are also adept communicators. This applies to NZ’s top scientists too; Professor Sir Paul Callaghan and Professor Sir Peter Gluckman are among the best science communicators and the best scientists I know. I wonder if the two qualities are connected – I think they are. The only way to become recognised is to tell people about what you do. So, there is all-round value in science communication.

Good practice science communication I’ll give a specific example of good practice science communication. I am sure there are other good examples, but this one illustrates my point very well. Merrin School, Christchurch, takes part in the annual Canterbury-Westland School's Science and Technology Fair which involves their Year 7–8 students carrying out a science project which they design and conduct themselves – they get help and advice from their teachers, of course. When they have completed the experimental work, they write their work up and prepare a poster presentation which they discuss in a class setting. This is excellent training for the real science world because the students do experiments which they communicate both as a poster (a standard way for junior scientists to air their work at scientific conferences) and orally. Perfect!

My plea… Help science students to recognise the importance of communication and the different styles of communication necessary for different audiences. By doing this you will increase the quality of science communication in the future and so promote a better understanding of increasingly complex science ideas. This, in turn, will help people to make reasoned decisions about the science that touches their lives, rather than relying on, often incorrect perceptions. Take, for example, NZ’s stance on food irradiation. The use of radiation is an excellent means of reducing pathogens on food and so reducing foodborne illness, but many ignorant (using the ‘correct’ meaning of the word) people think that exposing food to radioactivity will make the food radioactive and therefore unsafe; well it won’t – and they would understand that, if they had had the underlying science communicated to them properly (or even at all). By arming our science students with good communication skills we might even help their career progression to the top, which would be good for NZ, science and them. And finally, perhaps I should persuade some of my good science students to consider a postgraduate diploma in journalism…

Acknowledgements I thank David Zehms and Shane Barr of Merrin School, Christchurch, for their help preparing this article.


“If everyone knows that you need to exercise and eat good food to stay healthy, shouldn’t we all be sleek, smart, Energizer bunnies?” Teaching children about food is as important today as it has ever been, as Dr Simon Loveday, Research Scientist, Riddet Institute, Massey University Palmerston North, explains: In September 2011, the Ministry of Health released the results of the 2008/9 NZ Adult Nutrition Survey1, and they are sobering reading. For example, obesity among men increased from 17% in 1997 to 27.7% in the latest survey – a 63% jump in just 12 years! Obesity among women is about the same at 27.8%. OK, so we have a problem…but you knew that already. You may have also been bombarded with such inane and useless facts as how much exercise it takes to burn off a Big Mac combo2 and how many gallons of soft drink Americans chug down every year3. That’s part of the problem – information overload. Sifting the wheat from the chaff in an information-saturated society is not easy. I don’t claim to know what or how to teach today’s children, but I would like to put forward a few arguments for why teaching them about food is at least as important today as it ever has been, and how food can be a great vehicle for teaching chemistry, physics, maths and general science. When I tell people I’m a Food Scientist, the conversation tends to go something like this: Q: Is that like a chef? A: No, I work with the molecules in food to understand and improve food manufacture. Q: So you do molecular gastronomy, like those TV chefs, with liquid nitrogen and stuff? Table 1: Prevalence of inadequate dietary intake of specific nutrients within certain groups of the NZ population.

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A: Yes, I use liquid nitrogen like the TV chefs, but have you ever seen Heston Blumenthal at the wheel of an atomic force microscope or a synchrotron beamline? Q: What? A: Never mind, suffice it to say, Food Scientists use fundamental science tools to probe natural and man-made food molecules and structures.

What is wrong with our diet, and why? Returning to our national nutritional problem, in addition to high obesity rates, the Adult Nutrition Survey identified widespread deficiencies in vitamin A, calcium, iron, selenium and zinc (see Table 1). So why are we getting more obese and not getting the right micronutrients? Part of it may be our penchant for political football, as Professor Jim Mann of the University of Otago explains: “we used to have a strategy – Healthy Eating-Healthy Action (HEHA) – but it wasn’t in place long enough to find out if it was working.”4 HEHA was started in 2003 then substantially cut back in 2009. The Adult Nutrition Survey highlighted that in the last 12 years there has been a marked decline in food security (see Figure 1), defined as “access to adequate, safe, affordable and acceptable food.”1 Professor Elaine Rush of AUT comments that “the relatively large decrease from 1997 to 2008 in food security and the increase in body size for height is a huge concern for all New Zealanders.”4 However, even in groups with high food security, some vitamin and mineral deficiencies persist. For example, 15 to 18 year olds in particular are not getting enough vitamin A and iron. So there’s something fundamentally wrong with our diet. Are we buying the wrong food? Are we storing and cooking it wrongly? Should we be taking vitamin pills? One of the Adult Nutrition Survey’s authors, Professor Winsome Parnell of the University of Otago, notes that “there is an attitude out there that nutritional deficiencies can be made up by supplements or pills. In reality, spending the money on healthy food would be better.”4

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Figure 1: How food security is changing in New Zealand. New Zealand Association of Science Educators

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As a country, we need to raise scientific literacy for a whole lot of reasons, and I know it’s preaching to the choir to write that here, but I’d like to suggest that NZ particularly needs a healthy dose of scientific literacy around food and nutrition. It should be about what food we buy and how we prepare it; about having the knowledge to see through misleading marketing such as: “baked not fried”; and to interpret the information on the nutrition panel on the back of the packet. It’s things like knowing that the skin of a potato is the most nutrient-rich part, and that microwaving your broccoli is healthier than boiling it. Some of that knowledge, such as food preparation skills, used to come from the family, but as Sir Peter Gluckman comments, “the obesity epidemic cannot be handled unless all young people have the nutritional knowledge that most families just do not have.”5 Other aspects of food and nutrition literacy – such as interpreting nutrition panels and filtering marketing messages – are entirely new challenges that many parents themselves struggle to understand, let alone advise their children about.

Support for teaching the science of food There is evidence to suggest that the context within which science learning takes place has an important influence on student engagement and understanding. A recent report by Ako Aotearoa and Massey University found that “student engagement and transition [to tertiary science study] were most strongly influenced by lecturers’ style, personality, enthusiasm, and ability to place scientific knowledge into contexts that were relevant to the student, or which the students could construct for themselves.”6 In a 2011 report to the Prime Minister’s Office, Sir Peter Gluckman found that “engaging with science in real contexts provides opportunities for the development of students’ understanding of the culture and process of science and its unique place within society. This supports the direction of science education outlined in the New Zealand Curriculum.”5 Food can be an excellent context for teaching basic scientific principles; its real world relevance lies in the fact that everyone eats food, most children select or buy their own food some of the time, and most will have to prepare their own food once they leave home. Food can be a vehicle for teaching the Nature of Science in areas such as experimental design and data analysis, or more specialised topics like pH titrations, oxidation-reduction reactions, enzymes, micro-organisms etc. Even physics topics such as heat transfer (e.g. cooking by convection/conduction/ radiation), electromagnetic waves (e.g. in microwave ovens) and mechanics (e.g. in measuring the hardness and elasticity of solid foods) are applicable to foods. Food Science and Technology professionals have designed low-cost, scientifically rigorous experiments suitable for school science classes, and you can download them for free, including teachers’ notes and assessment questions7. During a Royal Society Teacher Fellowship hosted by Massey University’s Food Technology Department, Wellington High teacher Marietjie van Schalkwyk designed three practical experiment kits that include all materials and information packed into a handy bucket8. There are some great case studies and teaching materials on www.biotechlearn.org.nz centred around the properties of taewa Ma¯ori potatoes, and the technology used to deliver fish oil in functional foods. There is a real willingness among the scientists and technologists I have talked to in universities, Crown Research Institutes and food manufacturers, such as Fonterra, to help teachers in whatever capacity they can. I have been a mentor for a silver CREST award project, judged science fair projects, run professional development activities for senior science teachers and sat down New Zealand Association of Science Educators

with primary and intermediate teachers to help design food-centred science units for their classes. The NZ Institute of Food Science and Technology (www.nzifst.org.nz) or the Institute of Professional Engineers (www.ipenz.org.nz) can help put you in touch with food professionals in your area.

Food Science vs. Food Technology Food Scientists use fundamental science tools to understand and improve the molecular structure and nutritional properties of foods. Food Technologists work a bit closer to the coal face, taking the findings of Food Scientists and translating them into consumer products and food manufacturing processes. Q: So that’s just like food technology at school then? A: Yes and no, and therein lies a terminology problem. Food Technology at school explores the practical and cultural dimensions of food preparation, and though it touches on food product development, it’s not a hard-core science subject. By contrast, you need Level 3 physics, maths and chemistry to study Food Technology at university9. The divergent perceptions of “Food Technology” at school and university may explain why not many top science students study Food Technology at university. I was dux of my school and top in chemistry, and having made it to postdoctoral level in food research, I now have a very stimulating and rewarding job spanning fields that include organic chemistry, soft matter physics and gastrointestinal biology. Food and nutrition research is a truly trans-disciplinary field, and the Riddet Institute, a national Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE), brings together NZ’s top academic and industrial researchers in the field with collaborators from around the world. Food research at the Riddet Institute is very multicultural, with roughly 80% of our Masters and PhD students coming from overseas. It is difficult to find domestic students interested in postgraduate food research, which is perhaps the unfortunate legacy of mismatched perceptions of what “Food Technology” means. Food industry recruiters report that approximately 50% of Food Technologists employed in NZ come from overseas. That is another reason to bring food into the science lab at school: because there are great science-based jobs in the NZ food industries, and not enough local graduates to fill them.

The take-home message In summary, poor diets and bad health outcomes suggest that there’s a real need for food and nutrition literacy in NZ. One way to boost that is to incorporate food into science teaching, and this would have the added benefit of bringing everyday context to the learning process. Food Scientists and Technologists are ready to help, and have provided some free or low-cost ‘off the shelf’ plans for practical experiments and activities. Many in the food industry are willing to volunteer their time to help out teachers, so don’t be shy about getting in contact. For more advanced science students, there are great careers in Food Science and Technology that will draw on their chemistry, physics and maths skills and challenge their creative minds. For further information contact: s.loveday@massey.ac.nz

References 1 2

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2008-2009 Adult Nutrition Survey, available from: www.moh.govt.nz A 15km run according to The Sun newspaper or 1hr 20min of cycling for just the burger according to: www.medicinenet.com 49 gallons or 185 litres per capita per year in 2001 according to:www.ers.usda.gov Quoted on: www.sciencemediacentre.co.nz on 15 September 2011 “Looking Ahead: Science Education for the Twenty-First Century.” A report from the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor. Available from: http://www. pmcsa.org.nz “Engaging Learners Effectively in Science, Technology and Engineering.” Available from: http://akoaotearoa.ac.nz See: http://www.nzifst.org.nz/careers/ See: http://mufti.massey.ac.nz/ Entry requirements for Massey University’s 4-year B.Tech. Food Technology (Hons). scientist


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Neuroscientists have a responsibility to ensure that the public understand what fMRI data can tell them, otherwise the media will lead them to believe that “you love your iPhone”, as Dr Donna Rose Addis, of the Department of Psychology and the Centre for Brain Research, University of Auckland and winner of the Prime Minister’s MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Prize 2010, explains: Over the past few decades, there have been significant advances in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology. Although the ability of MRI to obtain detailed scans of anatomy was a major advance in biomedical science, for neuroscience research it was the discovery that MRI can be used to track the function of the brain by measuring the blood oxygen levels across the brain, scientists can create visualisations of what brain regions are ‘lighting up’ during different types of cognition. It would seem we can almost ‘read the mind’. The advances in functional MRI (fMRI) since the 1990s have been met with great enthusiasm from the scientific community – in the 16 years between 1991 and 2007, over 19,000 peer-reviewed articles reporting on fMRI research were published (Logothetis, 2008). Coupled with the increasing availability of and access to fMRI technology, this method has come to dominate brain research and led to the emergence of a new field: cognitive neuroscience. fMRI studies have investigated the neural underpinnings of every aspect of thought and emotion, from executing physical movements, language and mathematics, to the more complex and (some would argue) uniquely human abilities of remembering, imagining, and understanding the self. Although fMRI can provide an understanding of what brain regions are involved in different forms of cognition, importantly it also refines our theories about cognition and generates new ideas and hypotheses. Despite the exciting technological innovations – and the seductive images of brain regions ‘lighting up’ with activity – there are limits to what we can understand about the brain and cognition from brain imaging. The difficulty is that with such rapid advances in hardware and analytic techniques, the actual limits of this science are always shifting. As with most areas in science, there are complex statistical analyses and assumptions that go on behind the scenes, and those utilising such technology must be well-versed experts to ensure it is used appropriately. Communication about what can and can’t be derived from MRI studies is critical so that data are not misinterpreted and pushed beyond their limits.

Reverse inference: a logical fallacy The sin of over-interpreting MRI data usually comes about from a logical fallacy called ‘reverse inference’. Essentially, a reverse inference is when one looks at a pattern of brain activity and from that, makes conclusions about what that brain (or its owner) is thinking or feeling. That is, engaging in a form of mind reading. In the laboratory, however, we design experiments in a way that we have some knowledge about what our participants

are experiencing and then we look at what their brain does in response (a ‘forward inference’). We know what our participants are thinking from their performance on our cognitive tasks – we don’t assume it from what their brain activity looks like. The danger of reverse inference also applies to diagnoses of cognitive or psychological disorders. Although it is tempting to think we can determine if someone has a particular disorder by ‘reading’ their brain scans, in fact the best way is usually to observe their behaviour and/ or measure their performance on relevant tests. This isn’t to say that MRI doesn’t have an important role to play in furthering our understanding of why deficits or changes in behaviour arise. MRI can also identify changes in brain activity that might be characteristic of groups of people with particular symptoms. But as yet, we cannot scan the brain function of an individual person and definitively confirm, or rule out, a diagnosis of any psychological disorder.

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Reverse inference and the media A recent case highlighted the need not only for scientists, but also the media, need to have an awareness of the boundaries of brain imaging. Martin Lindstrom, a marketing and branding expert, wrote an Opinion piece in the New York Times (Sept 30, 2011) regarding his study of brain responses to iPhones. When participants saw their iPhones, there was, he writes, a “flurry of activation in the insular cortex of the brain, which is associated with feelings of love and compassion” leading him to conclude that “they loved their iPhones.” Lindstrom didn’t actually need to spend thousands of dollars and hours of time putting people into an MRI scanner to discover whether or not they love their iPhones. He could have, of course, simply asked them. More worrying, however, is the over-interpretation of the fMRI data. Lindstrom observed that the insular cortex (amongst a slew of other regions) was active, and based on his knowledge that some other studies have associated insular activity with feelings of love, he assumed the participants were experiencing love for their phones. But was it love? Scientists would say not. Lindstrom’s article, “You Love Your iPhone”, resulted in an overwhelmingly New Zealand Association of Science Educators

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opinion pieces – are based on science that has undergone such review. The importance of peer review standards extends beyond publishing. There are now companies selling ‘neuromarketing’ services, many of whom claim they have ‘reliable and standardised ways’ of assessing how much the market will love or hate a given product – such as iPhones – from looking at brain responses. Ask any neuroscientist and they would say this is not yet possible; while we are developing reliable methods for accurately predicting what one is thinking or feeling from the patterns of activity, this is still a way off. Of course, such companies don’t reveal their ‘secret recipe’ for their MRI scans, and so again there is no open peer review of their processes or results. It is the responsibility of scientists to bring awareness to the public about the existence and importance of the scientific process, as well as the limits of the science. Just because a brain image appears to say it, doesn’t mean it is necessarily true.

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Brain regions showing neural activity when imagining one’s own future are shown in warm colours. negative response from the neuroscience community, including numerous postings on science blogs and a letter to the editor signed by over 40 PhDs. As noted in the letter, the insular cortex – which Lindstrom associates with “feelings of love and compassion” – is actually activated in one third of all neuroimaging studies, and is more often associated with negative than positive emotions. Moreover, the insular cortex wasn’t the only part of the brain that was activated when viewing iPhones. As with most complex states of being, a network of regions across the brain was engaged. At the heart of the reverse inference fallacy is the idea that we can use fMRI to pinpoint a ‘love’ spot in the brain. Being able to draw such conclusions necessitates that there is a one-to-one mapping between each brain region and a particular cognitive function. Instead, the brain is a world of ‘one-to-many and many-to-one’. One brain region usually underpins a variety of cognitive functions, and each cognitive function usually engages multiple parts of the brain. This is not the first New York Times article to cause outrage and a letter to the editor from the neuroscience community. Just prior to the US Presidential election in 2008, an opinion piece titled “This is Your Brain on Politics” (11 November 2007) provided readers with a shopping list of reverse inferences. See the word “Republican” and the brain of the American voter reveals they experience “anxiety and disgust”. See Hillary Clinton’s name and their brain activity patterns tell of their “conflict”.

Neuroscientists and the media Why did neuroscientists respond so strongly to these cases of over-interpreted fMRI data? One reason is because it represents a misuse of fMRI technology. It suggests that some people using (or reporting on results obtained from) MRI don’t fully understand the current boundaries of the science or the ethical implications of drawing such bold conclusions. But it is also a misuse of the scientific process. These articles report research that sounds very ‘scientific’ but in reality, this research has not been peer reviewed by experts in the field. Submitting research to peer-review is a cornerstone of the scientific process, and newspaper and magazine editors should require that any articles – even 18

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Of more concern, however, are the arguments that fMRI evidence should be admissible in a legal context. Given the popular perception that MRI can be used to read minds, surely it is feasible that an MRI can detect when someone is intentionally lying? Some companies claim this can be done – such as No Lie MRI Inc., a US-based company that “provides unbiased methods for the detection of deception and other information stored in the brain”. Again, the issue of reverse inference rears its head. But so too does a raft of other issues. In a typical fMRI study, we scan 15–30 different participants and then we put together all their brain scans to get an average picture of brain activity during a particular cognitive task. This averaging is important because everyone’s brain is slightly different in its anatomy and its functioning, and we have to cancel out any idiosyncratic fluctuations (or “noise”). In contrast, lie detection scans inherently focus on one person – the defendant – making it impossible to know if the defendant’s brain activity shows signs of deception or if it just happens that their brain activates differently from the average. Another issue is that fMRI data can be easily corrupted. In order for lie detection scans to work, the experimenter would have to ensure the defendant is compliant and thinking about the episode in question. It would be easy, however, for a defendant to thwart the lie detection process by just thinking about random things and so ‘scrambling’ their brain activity. As neuroethicist Martha J. Farah points out, there is the very real concern that judges and juries will treat brain images as hard and indisputable evidence – especially when presented with a hard copy of a brain scan. In reality, those final brain images are arrived at through multiple steps of data collection, processing and statistics. The quality of the images can be affected by the individual characteristics of the person being scanned (including their compliance). And the resulting images are open to (mis)interpretation. Given the potential ramifications of a wrong judgment, it is imperative that if any form of MRI data is permitted as evidence, objective experts have the chance to educate those passing judgment.

Advancing our knowledge of the brain Although fMRI is not a mind reading device (and some argue it never will be; Logothetis, 2008), I don’t mean to imply that at its current stage of development, brain imaging cannot provide us with any useful information

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Science communication during a natural disaster is immensely important but can be a highly stressful and challenging task. Dr. Mark Quigley, earthquake geologist in the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Canterbury and winner of the 2011 Prime Minister’s Science Communication Prize, explains: At a fundamental level, earthquakes are simple beasts. The processes of tectonic plate movement, fault rupture and seismic wave propagation follow basic laws of physics. However, despite more than a century of research, earthquakes remain ‘unpredictable’ in the sense of reliably and precisely predicting the time, location, depth, and magnitude of ‘the next earthquake’. Studies of earthquake precursory phenomena have failed to yield a reliable prediction scheme. Communicating what earthquake science can and cannot answer to the public is of particular importance during a seismic sequence. However, major challenges exist in communicating a complex science where probabilities, as opposed to certainties, are all that can be confidently offered.

An earthquake science primer Global positioning systems (GPS) enable scientists to track the differential movement of the Earth’s surface and to calculate the rates at which different crustal blocks are squeezed together or pulled apart. We know, for instance, that the Port Hills that fringe southern Christchurch get about 2mm closer in a west-northwest direction to the eastern ranges in the Southern Alps every year, due to the ongoing collision between the Pacific and Australian Plates in New Zealand. Because rocks behave ‘elastically’ below temperatures of 300–400°C (you can prove this by flexing a long, thin cylinder of crystalline rock in your hands – it will flex then rebound when the pressure is released) the squeezing of rock associated with tectonic plate movement causes the buildup of elastic strain in the Earth’s brittle crust. Eventually, this strain accumulation raises stress levels in fault zones to levels that exceed the frictional strength of the faults, resulting in fault rupture and the genesis of earthquakes. Decades of rock experiments have enabled scientists to calculate fault strengths for different rock types at different depths and to understand the effects of adding or subtracting fluids on fault strength. The breaking of faults in big earthquakes leaves fault traces across the landscape that can be mapped and studied. In New Zealand these faults appear on the GNS Science ‘Active Faults Database’. Scientists know that the energy that is released during an earthquake relates to the amount of displacement that occurs on the fault, the total area of the fault that ruptures, and the mechanical strength of the fault (stronger faults will, in general, radiate more energy when ruptured). Many decades of accurate earthquake recording around the globe reveal that there is a power law relationship between earthquakes at all spatial and temporal scales, defined by the so-called Gutenberg-Richter Law. In other words, the frequency of earthquakes increases by one order of magnitude for every 1 point decrease in earthquake

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magnitude. On average there are approximately 16 M7, 150 M6, 1500 M5, and 15,000 M4 earthquakes around the world every year. The number of earthquakes in the Canterbury aftershock zone since the start of sequence in the September 4, 2010 Darfield earthquake shows a similar relationship; 1 M7, 4 M6, 43 M5, and 417 M4. If scientists can measure how fast strain accumulates across fault zones, they have some idea about fault strength, they know the approximate location and geometry of active faults, and they know roughly how many earthquakes should occur in an aftershock sequence, then it would seem that all the necessary ingredients for earthquake prediction are in place. So what’s the problem?

Communicating what scientists can and cannot answer, and why

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Despite the advances in understanding earthquakes over the last century, earthquake prediction in the sense of specifying an exact location, time, and magnitude for a pending event, so that those making the big decisions (civil defence, politicians, and law enforcement) could say, evacuate an area for a few days, remains elusive. The absence of a robust predictive technique is not for lack of trying, but there are several reasons why this holy grail has not been obtained. It was (and is) important to communicate each of these to the general public during earthquake sequences. First, the properties of faults change in time and space, both during and after earthquakes, and so the ‘clock’ associated with the seismic cycle may not be completely reset, or may have a different earthquake ‘due date’ for the same fault over time. In the geologic record, this is manifested as successive earthquakes that show variability in the time between earthquakes and the magnitude of the eventual earthquake; it appears that earthquakes don’t keep on schedule for many faults and that a longer time between earthquakes does not necessary mean that the eventual earthquake will be larger than the last. The Alpine Fault provides a good example of this; the last three major earthquakes are thought to have occurred at 1717, 1620, and 1450 (thus having variable return periods) and the biggest of these three events appears to have been the 1717 event (with the shortest return period of ~100 years). Monitoring how faults change during and after earthquakes, and why, is a focus of much research, but evaluating changes at the depths at which major crustal earthquakes initiate (5–10km and deeper) is not an easy task. Second, the process of earthquake ‘triggering’ is also challenging to study and it is important that the public understands this. Scientists can model how the slip on one fault may increase or decrease the stress acting on another fault (i.e. ‘static stress’ changes), thus bringing forward or back the potential ‘due date’ of an earthquake on a given fault. It seems that very small changes in the stress field may be enough to push an unruptured fault over the edge to rupture. However, the timescales for triggering may range from seconds to centuries, meaning that only changes in the relative probability of an earthquake on a given fault can be expressed. Additionally, there are other types of triggering mechanisms, such as those relating to the New Zealand Association of Science Educators

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Figure 1: The ‘en-echelon’ or sequentially stepped surface rupture trace of the Greendale Fault, which ruptured across the Canterbury Plains in the Sept 2010 Darfield earthquake. Local farmers show their sense of humour”. passage of seismic waves through the crust (‘dynamic stress’ changes) and changes in the fluid pressures of faults, so that earthquakes may occur on faults where static stress models may have predicted a stress decrease. Static stress models have been immensely successful in aiding to forecast the location of future ruptures, particularly on major faults such as those along subduction zone boundaries, but the absence of a ‘time factor’ means that only relative static stress increases or decreases can be proposed. Third, several of the most catastrophic earthquakes of the last decade (e.g. 2010 Haiti, >200,000 fatalities; 2003 Bam (Iran) earthquake, 26,000 fatalities) including all of the major earthquakes in the Canterbury earthquake sequence (September 2010, February 2011, and June 2011) have occurred on previously unidentified faults. Previous earthquakes on these faults may have been ‘blind’, meaning that they did not rupture through to the surface and did not leave any signal of surface rupture in the geological record, or they may have generated surface ruptures that were subsequently obscured by surface processes such as erosion or burial by sediment. There is evidence from New Zealand and elsewhere that faults are ‘fractal’ in nature, meaning that they are self-similar across different scales, and that the cumulative number of faults of a given length should increase exponentially with an exponential decrease in fault length. Evidence for this can found in the Gutenberg-Richter relationship discussed above. The implications for this are profound; if correct, then some scientists suggest there are thousands of unmapped faults capable of generating damaging earthquakes that are not shown in the Active Faults Database for New Zealand. While almost all ‘major’ earthquake sources (magnitude > 7) are likely to be accounted for, there are likely to be many ‘moderate’ sized earthquake sources that are equally capable of generating catastrophic damage, such as the 20

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Figure 2: The complex series of fractures resulting from the Greendale Fault rupture. Feb 22, 2011 Christchurch earthquake, that scientists have yet to map, and that will be challenging to locate in the geological record. One way around this is to do subsurface fault exploration. In Canterbury, this was accomplished following the February earthquake by teams of geologists, seismologists, and geophysicists who used seismic reflection, gravity, and aeromagnetic surveys to image faults throughout the region. The December 2011 earthquakes are thought, at this stage, to have occurred on one of these imaged faults offshore. And finally, it is important to emphasise to the public that no precursory phenomena (e.g. gas release, micro-earthquakes and foreshocks, thermal anomalies, animal behaviour, strain rate changes, electrical phenomena, lunar phenomena) have produced a successful and reproducible short-term earthquake prediction scheme, although some phenomena are suggestive of an increased seismic risk. The 2009 L’Aquila earthquake in Italy highlights the importance of effective science communication in this space. It is a challenging endeavour to present probabilistic earthquake ‘forecasts’ to the public without downplaying or over-exaggerating the risk of future earthquakes. Some members of the public feel that the risk of a major earthquake after months of smaller earthquakes was downplayed in this instance. A survey of major earthquakes in Italy spanning the last 60 years indicates that only 6 of 26 have been preceded by foreshocks and that many swarms have occurred without subsequent large earthquakes. However, the risk of a major earthquake immediately prior to the L’Aquila event (1 in 1000) was 2000 times more likely than a major earthquake before the foreshock swarm began (1 in 200,000). It is important to both provide the public with these numbers and to contextualize them relative

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Communicating science generally, and psychology specifically, is a challenge because of the pre-existing misunderstandings and biases people bring with them, as Marc Wilson, School of Psychology, Victoria University of Wellington and the winner of the NZ Association of Scientists’ Science Communicator Award 2010, explains: True or false: Just as people differ in handedness, some people are right-brained while others are left-brained? Listening to Mozart increases intelligence? More people are admitted to psychiatric wards during a full moon? Psychology is a science? The answers to these questions are false, false, false1, and… it depends. I’ll return to the issue of common misconceptions shortly, but first: the scientific status of psychology. Psychology is taught by a little more than 20-odd secondary schools in New Zealand, and can be studied at all universities but, depending on which university one considers, may be found either under the faculty umbrella of Science or under Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Indeed, many institutions allow psychology to be pursued as a major for either an Arts or a Science degree and, at Victoria University of Wellington at least, the majority of first-year psychology students are in the Arts camp. A student recently told me that entering the words “Is psychology a science” into Google produces more than 200 million hits (this drops to a mere 90,000 if you limit the search to the specific phrase). Needless to say, there is quite a bit of variation in the responses. I have spent many an evening promoting the study of science to prospective students around New Zealand. As a representative of Science I routinely start any presentation by describing why, for me at least, psychology fits comfortably beneath the Science umbrella (with the other disciplines that spring more immediately to mind when people think of science): These disciplines typically use the tools of the scientific method to systematically collect evidence that can be used to test ideas about how the psychological world is, and why it is that way. Non-science students are often disconcerted with the importance of scientific and statistical tools, not because they’re not smart enough, but because it’s not what they expect. So…is asking the question (as many people clearly do of Google) legitimate? To understand this we can start with the origins of the discipline.

Origins of psychology Most orthodox sources trace the origins of psychology as a distinct discipline to the late 1870s and early 1880s, when the first psychology laboratories were established in Europe and North America – that’s almost 40 years after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi! That’s right, psychology is younger than our founding document. While these early ‘laboraticians’ were inspired by the rigorous methods of the physical sciences, the questions they were interested in owed a lot to the much longer tradition of philosophy – questions that had long been addressed through thought experiments. On top of this

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link with an archetypal humanities discipline, only a little while after Wundt and James were kitting out their labs, Sigmund Freud was writing prolifically on the topic of the unconscious as a motivator for much of our behaviour. Now, if you ask a first-year psychology class (or pretty much any group of people) whose name they think of when they think of psychology, Freud is one of the most common responses. Even though he wasn’t a psychologist, the things we associate with Freud (couches, dreams, mother-issues, sex-as-thefoundation-of-pretty-much-everything, etc.) are sometimes a defining notion of what psychology is. To cut a long story short, when most people think of psychology, they are thinking about the kinds of things that psychologists are interested in understanding, but they typically don’t think that the tools of science are the things that are used to understand that subject matter. Ironically, when lay people think of science, they think of chemistry, and they think of physics, and other stereotypical sciences, because they think that the topics these disciplines cover make them science, not their methodology. Part of the reason for this may be found in a statistic already mentioned – while psychology is routinely one of the most popular tertiary courses of study, it is very much a minority discipline at secondary schools.

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misconceptions about psychology

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Misconceptions about psychology For years I have asked our students why they chose psychology and the most popular answers are to understand themselves better and/or to find out how to help others (if this sounds a little too pro-social, then note that wanting to mess with people’s heads at parties is also in the top 10.) So, if relatively few tertiary students have studied psychology before they get to university, what is their source of information about what they think psychology is? For some, it is personal experience of being helped or knowing someone who has been helped by a psychologist (which may concretize further the association with couches, hugs, etc.). For pretty much everyone, though, media representations of psychology (including the routine conflation of psychology and medically-based psychiatry) play a big role. One of, if not the, most common psychological misconceptions is that schizophrenia is the term that describes multiple or dissociative personalities2, and this mistake can be found on talk shows, news programmes, sitcoms, and movies such as Me, Myself, and Irene. The popularity of psychobabble in the media serves to maintain some of these misconceptions. Such widespread misunderstandings of the specific stuff of psychology, as well as the role of systematic data collection, analysis and inference, can make communicating psychology particularly challenging. Merely telling someone that their understanding is wrong may not actually translate into a change in understanding. After all, a lot of what we think and believe has ‘accreted’ over a long time, often corroborated by multiple sources (such as the schizophrenia example).

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Confirmation bias Unless people are encouraged to ‘interact’ with the ideas we teach, rather than simply be passive recipients of those ideas, then there is a risk that come exam time the idea that gets recycled is the same one people enter the classroom with. One of the culprits in this situation is ‘confirmation bias’, or the common finding that we tend to pay particular attention to the things that confirm what we already think. As educators, one of our tasks is to move beyond a transmission mode of teaching and to motivate our students to engage with our material in novel ways, so that their understanding really is transformed. Beliefs about the full moon (such as the one I’ve opened with) are good fodder for confirmation bias. In spite of the fact that there is now a significant body of research disputing any reality to these lunar effects, people not only continue to believe, but even prepare for their effects. For example, Christine Rankin stated on radio that when she was chief executive of WINZ, she requested that more call centre staff work during full moons because she believed a higher volume of calls were made at those times. Surely such a mistake can be easily disproved? One of my favourite psychological studies of all time provides some insight into why, even after disconfirmatory evidence, we continue to believe. In a series of studies starting in the 1950s, Leon Festinger first described the phenomenon of cognitive dissonance – our tendency to experience psychological discomfort when holding contradictory cognitions and dealing with that discomfort by rationalising or conveniently what we think and do. In the book entitled ‘When Prophecy Fails’ Festinger and his colleagues showed that following the real-life failure of catastrophic prophecy many ‘followers’ continued to believe in their prophet rationalising that, but for their faith, the prophecy would have come to pass. Finding out we’re wrong can be a challenge to our self-perception, so we’re basically motivated to kid ourselves that we’re right when we’re not. Bear in mind that doomsday prophecies are not a thing of the past – the Christchurch earthquakes have been presented by a small minority as evidence of an apocalyptic end time, the Rapture was predicted for May 21st this year, and 2012 purportedly marks the Mayan Armageddon.

Belief in pseudoscientific phenomena One of the most potent sources of evidence to support people’s beliefs about pseudoscientific phenomena are, ironically, our own experiences. In 2008, I collaborated with the Sunday Star Times national newspaper to promote an online study of beliefs about a range of ‘unusual’ beliefs. Questions asked about belief in paranormal phenomena, urban myths, conspiracies and, for variety, some contemporary scientific ideas. Not only is belief in these phenomena more common than most people think (44% of the 6,000-odd participants agreed that some people can tell the future, 49% that mind-reading is possible, and 32% that it is possible to communicate with the dead), but the single best predictor of belief in paranormal phenomena was having had what one might characterise as a paranormal experience. Of course, this can become a little circular – you believe in ghosts because you’ve seen what you consider to be a ghost, but (remember confirmation bias) you’re more likely to interpret something as a ghost because you believe in ghosts. Suddenly it becomes clear why Sensing Murder is such a popular television show. At the same time, and unsurprisingly, the highest levels of reported belief were associated with conventional 22

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scientific ideas: 71% endorsed a ‘Big Bang’-like origin to the Universe; 66% accepted some role for human actions in climate change; and 79% agreed that human beings as they exist today have evolved from simpler organisms. This last is particularly notable because New Zealand has been omitted from much of the comparative research on beliefs about evolution, and 79% ranks us among the most pro-evolution countries in the world3. By comparison, the figure for the United States has hovered around 40% for decades, while only a few countries such as Sweden, Norway, and Iceland beat New Zealand. Also unsurprisingly, endorsement of paranormal phenomena was weakly associated with rejection of conventional science. In fact, being politically conservative/ rightist was also associated with rejection of conventional science, and one can look to the United States for cautionary tales about the politics of science funding.

Communicating about science, especially psychology This year, to mark the Rugby World Cup and General Election, I reprised that collaboration with the Star Times, who also serialised the results. And in 2009, TV3 also promoted an online personality survey that was used to contextualise the Clayton Weatherston murder case. All of these were initiated as opportunities to engage with some of these ideas in a very public manner, and hopefully contribute to public debate about some of them, and provide me with data for my research and, yes, my teaching. While I’ve been a long-time fan of television shows such as The X-Files (and now Fringe) the reason I started researching these topics was because my job is to enhance my students’ understandings of the world, and the tools they can use to do so. One of my teaching tasks is psychological research methods, and for the reasons I’ve already noted, this is not the main reason people are interested in psychology. What better way to illustrate the importance of experimental methods than to ask how we might rigorously test the reality (or otherwise) of mind reading, or address the issue of psychic fraud by rigorously transcribing and coding the language that is used during séances and television psychic shows? It should be clear that communicating science generally, and psychology specifically, is a challenge (and not just for teachers) because of the pre-existing misunderstandings and biases people bring with them, but also the potential misunderstanding of what psychology (and indeed science) is. While the media propagates some of these misunderstandings, that’s partly because we may not be doing as much as we can to help them out. Organisations such as the Science Media Centre4 are great places to go, not only to see what’s going on in the science world, but to see if there’s anything that you can contribute and, even better, guidance on how to do that without compromising the science message. For further information contact: Marc.Wilson@vuw.ac.nz

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For a detailed summary of the most common myths of popular psychology see: Lillienfield, S.O., Lynn, S.J., Ruscio, J., & Beyerstein, B.L. (2010). 50 great myths of popular psychology: Shattering widespread misconceptions about human behaviour. UK: Wiley-Blackwell. It’s not – schizophrenia refers to a family of conditions characterised by hallucinations and delusions, thinking and experiencing things that are not real. Ironically, this mistake may initially have been perpetrated by a psychologist in the early 1900s. See Miller, J.D., Scott, E.C., & Okamoto, S. (2006). Public acceptance of evolution. Science, 313,765-766, for one of the most comprehensive cross-national studies. http://www.sciencemediacentre.co.nz/


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science literacy is vital! Remember Ken ‘Moon Man’ Ring, the man who caused a mini public panic in the wake of last February’s devastating earthquake in Canterbury when he claimed to be able to predict future earthquakes – and reliably inform people when to get out of town to avoid them? A common refrain from Ken Ring supporters, who took to Facebook and Twitter in droves last year to voice their support for their bearded idol, was that Moon Man was providing some semblance of certainty for Cantabrians when earthquake scientists could offer none. The reality of course, is that scientists cannot predict earthquakes – neither can Ken Ring – his numerous predictions fell flat. But for whatever reason – maybe a distrust of authority figures (in this case, state-employed scientists), or a visceral emotional response to the shock of the quakes – many people in Canterbury were hanging on Moon Man’s every word. Less direct but ultimately more insidious and damaging, is the widespread rejection in New Zealand of the science underpinning vaccination, climate change or genetic modification. The outcomes are: fewer children being vaccinated, removing the community immunity we need to stamp out diseases such as measles; inaction on climate change mitigation schemes; and outright rejection of technologies that could be required to feed the burgeoning world population. We consider ourselves to be a science-literate country. We have a well-educated workforce, progressive society and much of our economic success is driven by scientific advances. But swathes of the population have turned their backs on science, or at least the science that disagrees with their values, their worldview.

Motivated reasoning This means that the so-called ‘deficit model’ of science communication – which has long been discredited but is clung onto by a science system that knows not what else to do – is well and truly dead and buried. For years it was thought that if you could just equip people with adequate knowledge about science, make them science literate so to speak, they would more readily accept evidence and factor it into their decision-making processes. Increasingly however, that is proving an overly simplistic view of the world, and the complicated human beings that inhabit it. Much of this is to do with what neuroscientists call “motivated reasoning”, which posits that reasoning and emotion are inseparable. When we receive factual information, we overlay the facts with our own biases, points of view and values. Reasoning works in tandem with, but slower than, our quick-fire emotions. The result, as outlined by the American science writer Chris Mooney in a must-read piece called The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science1, is that presenting people with new information requires delicate handling

and knowledge of the audience for it to have any chance of being accepted. “Given the power of our prior beliefs to skew how we respond to new information, one thing is becoming clear: if you want someone to accept new evidence, make sure to present it to them in a context that doesn’t trigger a defensive, emotional reaction,” wrote Mooney in Mother Jones last May. The facts do matter, but the values that people filter scientific information through are often far more powerful. How information is presented and who it is coming from is just as important as the substance of the message. Nowhere is this more evident than in the race currently underway for the US Republican presidential candidacy. As New Scientist pointed out in a special on the state of science in America published last November, “US politics, especially on the right, appears to have entered a parallel universe where ignorance, denial and unreason trump facts, evidence and rationality.” 2 New Scientist pointed to statements from key presidential candidates that contradicted established scientific fact. Take this gem, from Republican presidential aspirant Rick Perry: “I am a firm believer in intelligent design as a matter of faith and intellect, and I believe it should be presented in schools alongside the theories of evolution.” As candidates jostle to win the mandate to challenge President Obama in 2012, the established evidence has gone out the window in favour of highly partisan appeals to voters. In many cases, the greater the science denialism espoused, the greater the popularity of the candidate seeking to lead the US. Compounding the issue is the fragmentation in recent years of the media, and the rise of social media. People can now easily filter their information sources, selecting from mainstream media outlets, blogs and social media channels that fit their worldview. Existing views are reinforced. People can exist in their own little echo chamber fed by the sources they choose to subscribe to via Twitter and Facebook.

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A lack of science literacy and, some would argue, increasing science scepticism, is posing huge challenges for scientists and science educators, as Peter Griffin, Manager of the Science Media Centre explains:

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Collapsing the ivory tower A lack of science literacy and, some would argue, increasing science scepticism, is posing huge challenges for scientists and science educators. Scientists worry about the public’s perception of science, especially as controversial subjects such as climate change, genetically modified food, stem cells, cloning and animal research grab headlines. Many scientists cringe at the entertainment-driven modern news agenda, the seemingly scattergun approach to science coverage, the lack of in-depth reporting on some big scientific issues. But there’s a growing realisation in the scientific community that hiding in the lab and steering clear of journalists and the public, won’t do anything to improve scientific literacy or to add clarity to some of the debates that are raging in the press. Around the world there’s not only a move towards open science and greater transparency in the scientific 1

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The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science, Mother Jones – Chris Mooney, May/June 2011 Science in America – State of a Nation, New Scientist – November 1 2011

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research process, but also a greater emphasis on better communication of science. Scientists have to work hard to gain the trust of the public and to prove the relevance of their work to society. The global financial crisis has only increased the importance of that as scientists try to justify ‘big science’ projects like the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which is instrumental in the search for the Higgs Boson or ‘God particle’. Scientists working on the LHC have made a determined effort to open a window into their research, to the extent that in December they revealed early proof for the existence of the Higgs Boson before the results had been fully confirmed. Increasingly, science is happening this way, with the public taken along on the journey of discovery, rather than hearing about it for the first time when the results are published in a scientific journal. Such openness helps people understand that science is a messy process, where researchers will often go down numerous dead ends before making discoveries, and where initial results are regularly discounted in subsequent testing. The more willing scientists are to engage in this way, by valuing science communication as an integral part of what they do, the more trust that is built up and the more likely the public is likely to ‘buy into’ their research aims. The importance of ‘framing’ is also coming to the fore. The public has arguably become desensitised to the dire projections of climate scientists, whose computer models predict disruptive sea level rise, increasingly frequent extreme weather events and declining biodiversity if carbon emissions are not contained. Therefore, climate scientists are often marginalized in the discussion of climate change. However, when the issue is discussed in terms of food security, employment, taxation or trade, it becomes that much more relevant to our lives. Likewise, when it is business people, politicians, iwi elders or school teachers taking about science, the message can have greater ‘cut-through’, which is why science literacy across all of those groups is vital. They are opinion leaders and have the power to influence on a large scale.

Reaching out to scientists All of our efforts at the Science Media Centre are aimed at helping journalists do a better job of reporting science, because the media is where the public gets the bulk of its information about science. In doing so, we rely on the willingness of scientists to engage with the media and the public in general. Therefore, we work closely with scientists and science press officers to identify those who are willing and available to interact with the media: to take calls from journalists, give background briefings to columnists or host a Café Scientifique for the public. After three years of work, the signs are positive. Scientists want to work with the media to improve understanding of their research and to engage the public in that work. The Science Media Centre now has a large database of scientists prepared to give comment to the media in their areas of expertise. There’s also a desire among scientists to use new media to reach the public through science blogging, publishing video and podcasts online and using social networks to bring scientists together with people interested in science. The Sciblogs network, which we established in 2009, has 30 scientists blogging about their areas of expertise and has

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become a key public forum for discussion of science-related issues. Science media centres in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Japan have proven effective in aiding the media when science is in the headlines.

What the Science Media Centre does Based in Wellington, but nationally focused, the Science Media Centre comprises a small team of media experts who are squarely focused on helping the media gain access to the scientific community and to the resources they need to develop science-related news stories. Some of our work is reactive – when significant new scientific research is released either locally or internationally, the Centre will round up feedback from scientists and release Science Alerts to our database of media contacts offering a snapshot of scientific opinion on the research and the opportunity for journalists to follow up with those scientists. Breaking news stories are our bread and butter. For example, we worked on the Rena oil spill, Pike River mine disaster and the Canterbury earthquakes, finding experts for journalists and research that could help them put the science in context for the public. We also hold regular press briefings on topical issues with a science element, offering the media an opportunity to put their questions to experts in an open forum. The Centre has a strong online element at: www.sciencemediacentre.co.nz where our Science Alerts are published and where journalists can find backgrounders on scientific topics, opinion pieces from scientists and tools to assist them in finding the right sources for their stories. The Centre is also working with the future generation of New Zealand journalists engaging with the country’s journalism schools to encourage students to consider science both as a round and an element of general news stories.

Relevance versus fascination It would be wrong to say there isn’t much science coverage in the mainstream media in New Zealand. The energy shock, climate change, increasing concern over nutrition and the environment have led to more science appearing in news stories. Wire stories from abroad, usually featuring fascinating scientific discoveries also feature regularly in the media here. Yet, often there is little local context and relevance to New Zealanders and stories are often light on scientific sources and background. How do we improve science coverage in the media so that it is better sourced, of greater relevance to New Zealanders and ultimately more balanced and accurate? We do this by adapting to the changing needs of the media and by preparing scientists to engage with the media in effective new ways. The facts still matter. The media has huge power to boost science literacy when it delivers factually and contextually accurate news about science. But science literacy can only be fundamentally improved if scientists, the media, science educators and opinion leaders in society all play their part in a more open, inclusive form of science communication that builds trust in science and illustrates the relevance of science to society. For further information contact: peter@sciencemediacentre.co.nz


Blogging can enhance student engagement, participation, communication skills, and understanding of science as Alison Campbell, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Waikato, Hillcrest Road, Hamilton explains: I am a biology lecturer, a researcher, a science communicator, and a lifelong learner in the biological sciences. I am also a science blogger, and in fact I believe that blogging (by me and others) adds an important dimension to all those aspects of my ‘day job’. While there are some risks entailed in blogging, mainly to do with issues of personal privacy, blogs can also offer significant learning opportunities around the learning outcomes for the Nature of Science strand of the New Zealand Science curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007). This requires that students “come to appreciate that while scientific knowledge is durable, it is also constantly re-evaluated in the light of new evidence…learn how scientists carry out investigations, and…come to see science as a socially valuable knowledge system. They learn how science ideas are communicated and to make links between scientific knowledge and everyday decisions and actions.” (ibid.)

What is a blog? A blog – or more correctly a ‘weblog’ is “a frequently updated website consisting of dated entries called posts… arranged in reverse chronological order so the most recent entry appears first.” (Brownstein & Klein 2006) They differ from printed sources of information (‘hard copy’) in that they usually make frequent use of the interconnected nature of the Internet; look at almost any blog post and you will see at least one hyperlink to another website that the blog’s author has found to be of interest and relevant to the topic they are discussing. While many blogs are effectively personal diaries (and some may carry advertorial content, openly or in disguise), search around and you will find an increasing number of science blogs: some by science writers (e.g. the awesome Carl Zimmer), some by interested lay people, and some by scientists themselves. An excellent New Zealand example of this last group is Sciblogs(1) – not to be mistaken for the US blog collective of similar name(2). And at least some university lecturers even encourage their students to write blogs about their current study topics, most notably “PZ” Myers on his blog Pharyngula(3). The posts on these websites are interesting, topical, up-to-date, and they provide a lens through which to view scientific endeavour.

Blogs can be a learning tool From an educational perspective, perhaps an even more significant difference between blogging and the medium of print is that a blog will usually allow for comments on each post, which can progress to in-depth discussion of the science involved by both commenters and the blog’s author. In some cases such discussion is actively encouraged by the authors as a means of testing ideas or seeking evaluation of puzzling data. An example of this is the discussion initiated by Dr Rosie Redfield(4) about the claim that arsenic might play a significant role in the metabolism of extra-terrestrial microbes. (A related case is the recent publication of results by scientists using the Large Hadron Collider(5), hoping to generate a discussion of the validity of this tentative data

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set, although the original release was via formal publication.) In other words, not only can a blog provide a window into scientific discovery almost as it happens, but this electronic means of communication may also reflect “the practice of [scientists] in which a hypothesis is generated, analysed (or reviewed), followed by a new hypothesis, and so on.” (Brownstein & Klein, 2006) However, it’s not necessary for students to be passive recipients of the information presented on science blogs – there is a lot of learning to be had from having students write their own, perhaps as an alternative to a hard copy report for an internally-assessed Achievement Standard. What’s more, not only are they publishing their own work, but their blogs can also be used to ‘talk’ with others about a group assignment and to review the work of others (Churchill, 2009). In addition, if a learning outcome includes commenting on others’ work, then students who feel uncomfortable actually speaking up in class may find it easier to find a voice through writing. This is something that I have noticed in the discussion forums on my own classes’ Moodle pages. Of course, this can be a double-edged sword, as some students may lose some normal social inhibitions due to the lack of face-to-face behavioural cues as to how their comments are being received. It’s best to lay out rules relating to ‘netiquette’ before beginning the blogging process with your class.

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Students’ engage in blogging Before you initiate this process, it’s essential to decide why you want your students to blog, or to access the blogs of others. As Brownstein & Klein (2006) comment, “[e] ducational blogs often fail due to a lack of focus.” Once you’ve done that, the how is fairly straightforward. Moodle and other online learning management systems generally have blogging as an option available to the class. If not, then: www.blogger.com is straightforward and easy to use, as is: www.wordpress.com. There is, of course, a deeper issue to the ‘why’ of getting students involved in blogging – will it aid their learning? Brownstein & Klein’s experience is that it has a positive impact on both teaching and learning, with students coming to “see knowledge as interconnected as opposed to a series of discrete facts” (2006). This may be due in part to the fact that teachers need to make assessment criteria clear from the start, which has an emphasis to students’ attitudes to participation and contribution. But also, with blogging the potential audience is much larger than just those in the class, and this can result in students “elevat[ing] their personal expectations for the quality of their posts” (ibid). The result: students participate actively, their communication skills are expanded and – if they are also regularly reading blogs ‘owned’ by professional scientists – their understanding of how science is done is enhanced. That students thoroughly enjoy the process was documented by Churchill (2009), who found that they enjoyed being able “to ‘learn new things from others’ perspectives” (ideally also the case from reading mainstream blogs), to see how others were getting on with their projects, and to gain feedback from classmates. Interestingly, he also found that while the fact that blogs New Zealand Association of Science Educators

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were assessed was an added incentive, so too was the fact that the teacher also blogged. So, while teachers may find blogging useful to describe or discuss their own experiences (Guzey & Roehrig, 2009), something that I’ve found to be the case with my teaching blog(6), it can also have a significant impact on student engagement. Yes, this sort of activity is an additional impost on teachers’ time; there is always a trade-off. But the potential of blogging to enhance student engagement, participation, communication skills, and understanding of science is significant – andsurely worth investigating in the Internet age, when information is only a mouse-click away and the need to educate students on assessing and discussing the reliability of that information has never been greater. For further information: acampbel@waikato.ac.nz

Churchill, D. (2009) Educational applications of Web 2.0: using blogs to support teaching and learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 40(10), 179-183. doi:10.1111/l/1467-8535.2008.00865.x Guzey, S.S., & Roehrig, G.H. (2009) Teaching science with technology: case studies of science teachers’ development of technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 25-45. Ministry of Education (2007) The New Zealand Curriculum. pub. Learning Media Limited; ISBN 978 0 7903 26 15 3

Blog urls (1) Sciblogs (NZ): http://sciblogs.co.nz (2) ScienceBlogs (US): http://scienceblogs.com (3) Pharyngula: http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/12/08/ im-done-almost (4) Rosie Redfield on arsenic: http://rrresearch.fieldofscience.com/2010/12/ arsenic-associated-bacteria-nasas.html (5) LHC publishes preliminary data for comment: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/ science-environment-15017484 (6) Talking Teaching: www.talkingteaching.wordpress.com

References Brownstein, E., & Klein, R. (2006) Blogs: applications in science education. Journal of College Science Teaching, 35(6), 18-22.

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Dr. Mark Quigley and Ph.D. student, Timothy Stahl from the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Canterbury, stand in a ground crack that resulted from the September 2010 magnitude 7.1 Darfield earthquake in Canterbury. These features developed as a consequence of landsliding in the Harper Hills northwest of Hororata. Mapping of them provides insights into the ground conditions and earthquake shaking attributes that favour landslide initiation. Photograph courtesy of Mark Quigley.

to ‘background’ probabilities, in addition to providing sufficient information on the methodology and limitations of these forecasts.

Lessons learned Conveying the scientific message in a clear and calm fashion; being transparent about what is known, not known, and what can be learned; and putting forth the message in a compassionate and honest way is essential for good science communication. Dispelling the commonly held public perception of the ‘cold, disconnected’ scientist by showing a human side is, in my opinion, a favourable approach. The public can handle ‘hypotheses’ if the rationale for the hypotheses is explained, regardless of the ultimate outcome

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once the hypothesis is tested. If the rationale behind scientific hypotheses is left out in dealings with the media, then blogs or personal websites, or places like the New Zealand Science Media Centre where one can write their own article, should be used. My personal website (www.drquigs.com) that I use as a blog for science communication to the press and public, appeared 3.83 million times in Internet searches and had 123,099 visits (71,916 unique visitors) from over 80 countries around the world in the months following the Darfield earthquake. Hosting public lectures, where attendees could send their questions to the lecturer beforehand, were particularly well attended and greatly appreciated in the instance of the Canterbury earthquakes. The ‘Ask an Expert’ series run in The Press was very useful and enabled scientists to deliver an unfiltered answer to public questions. I made peer-reviewed scientific articles published on the Canterbury earthquakes free to download from my personal webpage so that members of the public wanting to dig deeper into the science could do so. Being on the front foot and anticipating the next question is very important, particularly during the occasional media frenzy that develops during an earthquake sequence. At this stage, being able to do rapid syntheses of scientific literature, often outside of one’s immediate area of expertise, and to communicate these results simply is invaluable. Getting the message out quickly (within 1–3 days), particularly when responding to pseudo-science is essential because if the news moves on without a response from scientists then this might be viewed as a victory for pseudo-science in the public eye. And importantly, in the Internet age of instant information, never under-estimate the abilities of the general public to conduct their own research. Transparency and respect are properties that underpin not only science communication, but communication in general. For further information contact: mark.quigley@canterbury.ac.nz


The only thing I can say about getting old is that at least I had fun getting there, writes John Campbell, a notable and ingenious science communicator. I believe that it is important that scientists talk to the general public, because a scientifically literate public is important for the health of a nation. It won’t stop charlatans, sloppy journalism, false advertising, quack medicine, and unchallenged claims. But it will help. In my younger days I did about 15 public talks a year to all sorts of groups such as speaking to tramping clubs on the “Optical Effects in the Atmosphere”. I did this because as a public employee I thought they warranted some reward. However I have preferred to concentrate my efforts on schoolteachers. There is no better recruiter for, or communicator of, science than an enthusiastic schoolteacher. We need to encourage, and build, more characters, to seek the same stature as Haggis Henderson (physics and music) and Graham Bachelor (entering a lecture on sound intensity in gumboots and black singlet with chain saw roaring). Science teaching is not about teaching science, but teaching enthusiasm for science, as is a summary of my efforts to communicate science to science teachers and the general public:

1. Physics Open Days In 1968 I arrived back at Canterbury as an academic when the Physics Department had been in its new suburban buildings for just a year. With the research labs re-instated, we held three open nights for the public. Thousands visited and we gained our only-ever editorial in a major newspaper (The Christchurch Star, Friday 11th September, 1970). Unfortunately, the journalist failed to mention my profound contribution to the advancement of physics: a box on a corridor wall labelled “A Device for Cutting Power Bills in Half” wherein was the device itself (a pair of scissors).

2. Newspaper Articles For a scientist I was prolific in writing articles for newspapers: one a year. These articles covered physics in nature (e.g. rainbows, green flash), odd physics (e.g. firewalking, falling down stairwells), an anniversary marking a great discovery (e.g. lasers, superconductivity, holography, X-rays, electron), and notable local science characters (e.g. Rutherford, Bickerton, Erskine, Pickering). The local newspaper always printed them, until it was bought by an overseas media chain and appointed a new editor. After that they only printed syndicated articles. However, at least three chemistry academics have monthly columns in their local newspaper (Allan Blackman, University of Otago – Chemistry Matters: http://neon. otago.ac.nz/chemistry/magazine, and Tim Brown and David Shillington of Massey University); all three should be lauded for their efforts.

3. Bickerton Lecture The Bickerton Lecture was to be a public science lecture at a centre-of-city venue aimed at having up to 1000 people attend. The speakers included: Duncan Steel (Australia)

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on Saving Humankind from Catastrophic Asteroid and Comet Impacts (1994); Anthony Lealand (The Firework Professionals) on Fireworks and Pyro in which he set off $2000 worth of pyrotechnics (1996); John Campbell on The Centennial of the Electron (1997), Ruud Kleinpaste on Insects – Nature’s Success Story (1998); and Erick Brenstrum on The Weather – Our Friend and Killer (1999). It was a noble failure, peaking at only 900 (The Centennial of the Electron). I realised that one person (me) cannot handle all the roles, and I ran out of speakers whom I thought had the potential to fill the Theatre Royal. However, in 2003 I invited Bill Pickering to open the Pickering/Rutherford/Havelock Memorial (see www. rutherford.org.nz Other Places – Havelock), and the University of Canterbury decided to take the opportunity to confer an honorary Doctor of Engineering on Bill. I stated that Bill would fill the Town Hall and so for the first time ever, the University held a public capping ceremony for an individual. This was complete with all the formal, gowned and maced (here I am talking pre-riot days) ceremony, and followed by Bill’s illustrated talk, about his career in space exploration. Bill spoke to a full Town Hall.

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4. Ask-A-Scientist Young children ask such great questions that I would never have thought to ask. Why do we have pubic hair? Why are human females born with all their eggs rather than making them as needed? How can one do an “Ollie” on a skateboard? Can scientists predict when stars will collapse? Why does eating asparagus change the smell of my urine? And: Why do waves impact parallel to the beach? I started this scheme in 1993 as a hobby, whereby teachers – especially at rural and primary schools, when presented with a question of science that was beyond their own and their colleagues’ expertise – would forward the question to me. I then invite a professional scientist to write a letterhead letter to the child in the classroom. That is the first stage of magnification; the whole class sees the response and the teacher has it for future occasions. The second stage, whereby the general public get to see it, is the Ask-A-Scientist newspaper column which publishes the questioner’s name, school, and question, together with the name, profession, affiliation, and 300 word response of the responder. The best questions come from young children, before they have lost their inhibitions. The few that come in from senior secondary pupils, who seem to have had their sense of wonderment knocked out of them, are very specific to their syllabus. One head of physics at a large school in Christchurch, when I asked him as to why there had never been a question sent in from his school, responded: “If we did that, the Board of Governors would think we teachers knew nothing.” So I can guarantee that some pupils at that school, asking a question of their teachers, get a response involving the dark effluent from the south end of a north-facing male cow. New Zealand Association of Science Educators

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These days half the questions come from newspaper readers, often retired, who wonder about something in science. Through this scheme, some 90,000 column-cms of science have been painlessly presented to the general public.

5. Firewalking The planned conference for the NZ Sceptics in 1989 coincided with charlatans in Auckland starting to offer $200 courses in how to control your mind so that you can walk over red-hot charcoal without feeling pain. Thus it was that I started my career in running firewalks, and have done some 50 to date, including three in the USA (are you crazy?) and one at CERN. First equal in my most fun lectures was my first one, given at the Sceptic´s Conference “The Art and Science of Firewalking.” I made it onto the national TV news! Some of my experiences have been covered in previous NZST articles (see Ref. 1). My favourite firewalk was at Wanganui Girls´ College, raising $5000 for their science labs. The best location was the Octagon in Dunedin, under Robbie Burns´ statue, for the International Science Festival (of 1998, 2002, and 2004). Firewalking is a spectacular and fun way to communicate some aspects of science to the general public (see Figure 1).

6. Death Defying Demonstrations First equal in my most fun lectures was “Death Defying Demonstrations”, the opening act for the NZASE 2004 SciCon Conference, held in Christchurch. While the organisers kept pestering me to tell them what I would be doing, I declined because surprise was of the essence. They had visions of (a) the lecture theatre burning down; (b) me wiping out Robert Lord Winston, the TV personality who opened the Conference; and (c) lawsuits. The opening set the scene: a soldier marching on with a .303 rifle, and proceeded to carry out some rifle drill, he then blew a fanfare through the rifle barrel. I came on like a headless chook with an explosive charge strapped to my chest that was connected to its wireless-operated fuse. I lay on a bed of nails, where a concrete block was smashed on my chest. I walked up to a large Tesla coil which was throwing a metre-long spark and touched the high voltage dome, and I plunged my hand into molten lead. A physics graduate student, Ian Farrell, and his karate group smashed concrete blocks with their bare hands. Anthony Lealand, of the Firework Professionals, fired off pyrotechnics willy-nilly. A great time was had by all, especially the participants. Cleaning up afterwards also involved wiping my fake blood off a wall splattered up to ceiling height. In the follow-up workshop, where teachers could try some of these demonstrations, I was surprised that only one teacher would plunge their hand into molten lead. So clearly I had lost my ability as a snake-oil salesman. And the one that did was from Papua New Guinea, so he had a head start on things hot. Several of the demonstrations videoed during this talk ended up on the DVD “John Campbell’s Physics Demonstrations”.

7. Talks to Schools I have given many talks to all school sectors, including school assemblies. I have spoken on a wide variety of topics. All too often, scientific societies used to draw on retired members – too many of whom spoke in a boring way – but nowadays academics tend to leave this field to outreach programmes and graduate students to fire-up school pupils. I eventually came to the conclusion that school children were advancing to economics not because they enjoyed totting up figures in a ledger book, but because they fancied a future involving top-end BMWs and a moneyed lifestyle. 28

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Figure 1: John Campbell firewalking at Rangi Ruru Girls’ College. What did science have to offer? Job satisfaction, fun, and travel, and so in latter years my talk to senior school pupils has usually been “The Great Life I Lead”, a rapid-fire travelogue of me carrying out marine archaeology in Italy; back in the lab growing ruby crystals; studying, through X-ray fluorescence, a painting by Renoir at the Research Lab of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts; in the lab trying to improve the density of information storage through optical hole-burning; using a nuclear reactor in France to determining uranium clusters in fluorite crystals; carrying out an underwater survey of the shipwrecks on the Chatham Islands; in Germany using a cluster of lasers. After one such talk in Palmerston North, one pupil reported to his father – whom unbeknownst to me was a physics professor – about the great talk they had had about life as a physicist. I never followed up to see what field that kid went into, in case a moneyed lifestyle did indeed win out.

8. West Coast Tour Before my time, the Maths and Physics section of the Canterbury Branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand, probably the longest name of any science society anywhere, used to take physics demonstrations to schools in the provincial centres of Canterbury. In the early 1970s I temporarily resurrected this. I and a ‘good flashes and bangs’ chemist, Alan Metcalfe, did a week-long tour of West Coast high schools, two schools per day, with a van load of gear and a variety of illustrated talks. It was the first time they had had science academics visit. This was done on a shoestring: two academics, a van from one department and petrol from another, and billeted with local schoolteachers. To this day I have three grand memories of that trip: saving


9. Rutherford Scientist Supreme Some 50 books had been written about Ernest Rutherford yet neither they nor New Zealand could give an accurate account of his life and work, especially the New Zealand side. After a quarter of a century’s research I published “Rutherford’s Ancestors” (1996) and the near-definitive “Rutherford Scientist Supreme” (1999). The Stout Trust gave a copy to the library of every intermediate and secondary school in New Zealand. After one reprint, I am working on a second edition of Rutherford Scientist Supreme. In 2011 I established www.rutherford.org.nz , and it is a resource of interesting and odd information about Rutherford, which goes beyond the scope of my book. The latter includes honouring Rutherford, the story behind the things honouring Rutherford; the banknote (Ref. 2.), racehorse, crater on Mars, stamps, streets, laboratories, medals etc. Up to 18GB, some 200,000 pages, are downloaded monthly. Amazingly, there has never been a documentary on Ernest Rutherford, New Zealand’s internationally most famous son, Canada’s First Nobel Prize winner, and Britain’s most illustrious scientist of the first half of the 20th century. I recall a few desultory starts many years ago that came to nothing. In 2005 I visited the BBC to suggest they make one for the 2008 centennial of Rutherford’s Nobel Prize. The producer I spoke to was despondent. If it wasn’t reality TV or a costume drama they couldn’t get the money. So I thought, “Bugger them. I’ll do it myself.” Four hundred and fifty thousand dollars later we have three one-hour episodes in high-definition digital video. I chose

Gillian Ashurst as the director as she did such a good job on the documentary “William Pickering: Rocketman.” It is to be released in mid-2012 and in late 2011, the centennial of Rutherford’s nuclear atom, I took the Rutherford Documentary to the Principal Patrons, Rutherford family, and interviewees in Canada, the USA and Britain.

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10. Physics Demonstrations DVD In the last round of the Promotion of Science and Technology Fund, I obtained funds to hire a professional cameraman/editor to make a DVD “John Campbell’s Physics Demonstrations”. The DVD was given to every NZ secondary school physics teacher. The aim was to help physics teachers practise interesting and weird physics demonstrations before performing them in class (and thereby receiving kudos for so doing). I had fun floating in the concentrated brine ponds at the Blenheim salt works (think of me when next sprinkling salt onto your fish and chips); and showed how World War II escapees could navigate using their fly buttons. Many of the demonstrations I didn’t want teachers to just show their pupils, but to perform themselves. How to make sure of this? No problem. I just made those demonstrations politically incorrect. When I can next obtain the funds, I will produce a second DVD, with the addition of radioactivity to be added to the material left over from the first disc.

11. Corridor Display Units

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a headmaster from having his foot blown off (luckily I was sitting by the unused rear door to the classroom when the headmaster came through it and was about to step on a plate on which Alan had heaped, dissolved explosive which, when it dries, spontaneously explodes, generating a shock wave which sets off all the others scattered around the classroom); being in the Pig and Whistle pub outside Westport with teachers at 2 a.m., the .303 bullet hole in a front window still visible from an argument some years before when a laconic arguer went out to his truck and shot his protagonist; and the box of orchids that arrived some months later from an appreciative physics teacher whose hobby was growing orchids.

A corridor display unit is a good way to communicate science to students. The improved one I developed in 1985 (there was an old ‘standard’ display case there before hand), had four booths, which were changed weekly, outside our first year lecture theatre, a place where all students congregate three times a week (see Ref. 3). It is essential each booth is changed weekly because otherwise the display becomes static, dusty, and not working, encouraging the students to stop looking for anything new. For further information contact: john.campbell@canterbury.ac.nz

References 1 2 3

NZ Physicist, 11 4-6 Nov 1989; NZST, No 65, p9-13 Spring/Summer 1990 The Physics Teacher, 71 21-23 1992. The Physics Teacher, 27 526-9 Oct 1989.

continued from page 18 about the brain. MRI has revolutionised our science and significantly expanded our knowledge about the inner workings of the brain. It has sparked new hypotheses and theories that in turn have changed how we think about the mind and brain. Furthermore, our methods for human brain mapping are advancing all the time. The recent development of pattern analysis has allowed scientists to train computers to decode some forms of information from brain activity and to statistically predict what cognitive process is most likely occurring. Not to definitively say what someone is thinking, but to infer statistically what they might be thinking. As neuroscientists, we have a responsibility to ensure that the public understand what our fMRI data can tell them. Because if the innovation in the last 20 years of brain imaging is anything to go by, before we know it Apple will have a mind reading

app to tell us how much we love our iPhones. For further information contact: d.addis@auckland.ac.nz or visit: www.memorylab.org If you would like to know more about the advances and limits of MRI technology, The Centre for Brain Research at The University of Auckland is holding a public MRI demonstration on 14 March 2012. For more information visit: www.cbr.auckland.ac.nz

References Farah, M.J. http://www.neuroethics.upenn.edu/index.php/penn-neuroethicsbriefing/brain-imaging Logothetis, N.K. (2008). Nature, 453, 869-878. Poldrack, R. http://www.russpoldrack.org/2011/10/nyt-editorial-fmri-completecrap.html Yarkoni, T. http://www.talyarkoni.org/blog/2011/10/01/the-new-york-timesblows-it-big-time-on-brain-imaging/

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scientists and students collaborate in authentic learning A collaboration between scientists and students led to an authentic learning experience about DNA sequencing, as Justin M. O’Sullivan (Massey University), Paul Scott (Mercury Bay Area School), and Rosemary Hipkins (New Zealand Council for Educational Research) explain: Introduction This article describes an authentic scientific investigation conceived and carried out by a team of scientists from Massey University led by Justin O’Sullivan (first author). Collectively, this group spanned the career path from early post-graduate to senior professor (Figure 1). Over one hot weekend in April 2010, a group of around 60 senior secondary students from four different schools worked alongside this team of scientists, learning about techniques of DNA sequencing and analysis as they participated in an investigation into the microfauna of Hot Water Beach. The student group was led by Paul Scott, joint Curriculum Leader of Science (second author). Students from Mercury Bay, Epsom Girls’ Grammar, Botany Downs Secondary College and Albany Senior High took part (Figure 2). The collaboration was evaluated with the help of researchers from the New Zealand Council for Educational Research led by Rosemary Hipkins (third author).

Overview of the science investigation Hot Water Beach is located south of Mercury Bay Area School on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. It is a site of significant cultural importance to Ngati Hei and is unusual because of the fact that hot water springs (64°C) emerge within the inter-tidal range. For local students it is a surf beach where young surf lifeguards patrol each summer helping to protect the many local and international visitors.

Figure 1:Scientists from the Institute of Natural Sciences, Massey University, who participated in this study. Back row (L to R): Peter Deines, Ralph Grand; 3rd row (L to R): Jarod Young, Lutz Gehlen, Austen Ganley, Justin O’Sullivan; 2nd row (L to R): Mack Saraswat, Evelyn Sattlegger, Monica Gerth, Wayne Patrick; Front row (L to R): Veronica Benton-Guy, Paulina Hanson-Manful, Matteo Ferla. Missing from the picture are Belinda Bray, Andrew Cridge, John Harrison and Paul Rainey.

Figure 2: Over 60 students from Mercury Bay, Epsom Girls’ Grammar, Botany Downs Secondary College and Albany Senior High took part in the DNA sequencing and analysis of microfauna at Hot Water Beach. 30

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The genesis of the collaboration

But what lurks beneath the bubbling springs? Are there unique organisms? Is the water contaminated with human microflora? These were some of the questions that the scientists set out to answer with the help of the teachers and students. Working in collaboration, the group undertook a census of the organisms that are present at the site. The investigation followed established metagenomic procedures that take advantage of the common, albeit distant, evolutionary ancestry of all bacterial ribosomes. The DNA sequence that encodes the ribosome can be used as a bar code to identify different organisms in much the same way as marque badges are used to identify different cars (Figure 3). Sampling at the beach and then carrying out the sequencing procedures were the focus of the weekend’s activity. The teachers and students were learning the procedures by participating in them and the scientists were trying out a collaborative process which they saw as important for the reasons outlined next. At the end of the weekend the samples were taken back to Massey University (Albany) to begin the next stage of the investigation: the sequencing, data analysis and interpretation. From the schools’ perspective the project concluded when the scientists returned to report their findings to the student participants.

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Figure 3: Metagenomics allows the identification of the community structure without having to grow the organisms. As an analogy let us look at a population of cars in a car park [A)]. In this example we amplify and identify the car marque badges to show the community structure [B)]. The statistical accuracy of the final picture is dependent on the sampling depth [C)], irrespective of whether it is DNA or car marque badges. Ideally sufficient badges should be amplified to represent the whole community at the site of interest. Clearly, the small sample has over-represented the proportion of the population that are Porsches, as illustrated in [D)]. The same principle applies for metagenomic studies of bacterial communities where the DNA sequence of the gene encoding a ubiquitous enzyme (i.e. the ribosome) is used to identify bacteria to the family level (i.e. the marque). Finally, sequencing combinations of different genes, analogous to the marque badges and license plates in the figure, would allow the identification of the bacteria to the individual level.

Scientists are in the midst of a technology-driven revolution that is resulting in dramatic changes in the way they test predictions and undertake discovery-driven science, particularly in the biological sciences. These technological advances are driving significant changes in the size of experiments that can be performed and the amount of data that is obtained. The scientists in this project believed that coming generations need to understand the implications of these changes for their futures, and that it is critical that the theory and practice behind these technologies are accessible and not hidden or mythicized by jargon. Radical changes to DNA sequencing over the last 5 years exemplify the effect of technology on the biological sciences. The first eukaryotic genome (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) was sequenced in 1996 after years of effort involving 600 scientists around the world (Goffeau et al. 1996). The human genome was sequenced in 2001 (Lander et al. 2001; Venter et al. 2001) after 15 years of effort and is widely considered the crowning glory of this technology. The human genome project marked a technological advance in the way scientists approach sequencing – namely shotgun sequencing (Venter et al. 2001), where a lot of short pieces of DNA sequence are obtained and used to rebuild the complete sequence. Since the completion of the human genome sequence, the pace with which advances in DNA sequencing technology have occurred has continued to increase to the point that it is now possible to sequence an entire human genome in one week or less. Amazingly, in just a few years it will only cost a few thousand dollars to sequence an entire human genome. This revolution not only impacts on scientific research – it will bring DNA sequencing and the ethical issues associated with it into the lives of everyday people. The scientific investigation discussed in this article was designed to bring cutting-edge DNA sequencing to school students in a way that engaged them on conceptual, practical, emotional and cognitive levels through active individual participation in the scientific process. Justin was aware that the key to a successful outcome was achieving a positive engagement that enabled the students to develop and build their own understanding, and that doing so also required extended expert tuition from the teachers. His team’s aim was to reinforce the teachers’ tuition through the incorporation of expert instruction on the techniques (i.e. biotechnological techniques such as PCR and sequencing). Thus, the tertiarysecondary partnership was designed to be integrated into the students’ ongoing learning programme while giving them direct engaging insights into the actual practice of metagenomics. From a science education perspective, keeping up-to-date with the progress of scientific knowledge and associated technologies is a huge challenge. Paul graduated from university in 1991 with a degree in marine biology, but had felt increasingly out of touch with the continuing advances in the life sciences. But the Level 3 NCEA achievement standard, ‘AS90718 Describe applications of biotechnological techniques’ requires that students (and hence teachers) do understand techniques such as PCR, gel electrophoresis and DNA sequencing. For teachers in small rural schools, such as Mercury Bay Area School (MBAS), high costs of equipment and distance make it difficult to offer students firsthand experiences of the techniques (a return trip to the Liggins Educational Network in Auckland, for example, would take six hours). Paul proactively addressed this challenge by successfully applying for a Maurice Wilkins Centre’s High School

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Figure 4: Students carrying out sampling at the beach. Biology Scholarship. This enabled him to attend the 2010 Queenstown Molecular Biology Conference where he spent two days listening to lectures, talking to young scientists about their poster presentations and walking through the trade fair becoming more familiar with the extensive range of technologies used in the field of molecular biology. The ‘next generation sequencing’ machines attracted his interest, and in particular a competition being run by Roche (one supplier) which was asking delegates to write a proposal on how they might use such ‘next-gen’ technology in their work. Roche were offering to run the DNA sequencing for the ‘best’ proposal for free and were very interested that a secondary school might apply. The makers of the technology thus played their part by encouraging Paul and Justin (the award-winning young scientist he had just met at the Conference) to think further about a fruitful research question. And so the collaboration was hatched.

b)

How the investigation unfolded The weekend programme was developed to target ‘AS90718 Describe applications of biotechnological techniques’. Friday afternoon began with a blessing from local iwi, Ngati Hei. MBAS’ students were then divided into teams and used equipment to take sand cores in and around one of the thermal springs on the beach. The non-random sampling strategy was devised and explained by the scientists, who directed proceedings (Figure 4). Paul noted this would have been the first time some students had come into direct contact with a professional scientist, and any stereotypical misconceptions of super intelligent eccentrics dressed in white lab coats were quickly vanquished – some of the trendy post-graduates in the team were only a few years older than the school students and showed a great sense of humour as they navigated between bemused holidaymakers who sat relaxing in the burbling salt water. With GPS co-ordinates downloaded onto the laptop and sand samples carefully extracted it was time to head home. The first stage was complete. Saturday morning was spent with a series of short presentations delivered by Massey University lecturers. Professor Paul Rainey described how science is more than just the logical approach of the scientific method but involves creativity and imagination. He used the work of various scientists through the ages including Jenner, Darwin, Wilkins and others, highlighting their astounding achievements, before giving students a future focus of where the life sciences are heading and how their generation may participate and contribute both now and in the future. Paul’s lecture linked well with the New Zealand curriculum’s core science strand, the Nature of Science. 32

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Figure 5: A student carrying out DNA analysis (a) and the resulting gel (b). The lectures that followed were just as engaging, the science was communicated clearly and good use was made of PowerPoint and other media that related directly to the biotechnology achievement standard and the afternoon’s


and provided a real result, the final preparation of the DNA for sequencing required the use of extended primers that were more temperamental. Therefore, back at Massey, Veronica Benton-Guy (an Honours student) repeated the extractions and performed the necessary reactions to prepare the DNA for direct sequencing by Roche.

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A brief outline of what was found The nine sample sites at Hot Water Beach generated some 150,053 sequences which were analysed using the ‘Ribosomal Database Project’ website hosted by Michigan State University. Again, this work was performed by Veronica Benton-Guy as part of her Honours project. Veronica found that the bacterial families present in each of the nine sampled sites changed dramatically with the temperature, salinity and pH. This pattern was most obvious for members of the Bacteroidetes, which are generally considered to be very abundant in all sorts of environments but were found to prefer the slightly basic, cooler, high salt environments at Hot Water Beach. By contrast, bacteria from the Thermotogae, which are thought to be very primitive, were only found in the acidic, hot, low salt environments. The experimental work and results are being prepared for publication in a peer reviewed journal and thus the students will have contributed to the international body of knowledge on the metagenomes of hot water springs. In July 2010, Justin and Veronica presented short PowerPoint presentations to the participating students in each school. This recapped the work to date and introduced the discipline of bioinformatics as a computational tool. (How many students with a combination of skills in computing, mathematics and statistics and a love of biology might see themselves working in this field?) Armed with a memory stick containing a file with about 200 sequences from the spring sample site, students uploaded the data onto the webpage and used a ‘classifier tool’ to rank the sequences into a hierarchy. They were to select just three phyla of bacteria and research them through Google. Their inquiry gave them an insight into the environmental requirements of the microbes and the roles that they might play in the ecosystem. The big picture would involve trying to correlate the bacterial populations at each sample site with the abiotic variations that exist between sample sites, such as temperature, pH, salinity and distance from the sea.

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practical focus. Perhaps one of the more subtle outcomes of this morning session was the fact that no scientists can have in-depth knowledge in all different areas. Each speaker had different areas of expertise, and this was called upon at various times in response to the students’ curious questions. For example, one student who wanted to gain a deeper understanding of pyro-sequencing was referred to Dr Ganley and a rich discussion ensued (NZST issue 126 contains a similar discussion “Towards the $1000 Genome”, Fraser, 2011). On Saturday afternoon students from all the schools were kitted out in disposable lab coats and gloves in preparation for extracting genomic DNA from the sand samples. The scientists had designed a complex multi-part procedure and the students were coached and guided as they used laboratory equipment that is typical of experimental laboratories but atypical of school teaching laboratories (e.g. pipettes, centrifuges, vortexers, and PCR machines). The scientists hoped that the hands-on process would de-mystify the application of what is actually a relatively simple procedure and reinforce the adage: “If you can cook you can extract DNA.” The continuous 20-step procedure took two hours, with several short breaks of five minutes when solutions were cooled and incubated to 4°C. After a short break for the students to rehydrate, the newly extracted DNA was mixed, along with PCR reagents, in a PCR tube ready for amplification of the target DNA sequence. Because the PCR reagents had already been prepared, this procedure involved just six steps and took only twenty minutes. From here the PCR reactions were loaded in a PCR machine and the reaction run overnight. Students worked in small groups (2 or 3 students) in which they all had a chance to master the techniques of micro-pipette handling, vortexing and centrifuging. The school’s three laboratories were needed to accommodate all the students, in addition to the twelve post-graduate or senior lecturers providing support and expert guidance. For Paul working and learning alongside the students and sharing their experience at first hand was the most rewarding part of the day. By the end of a hard-working afternoon in a very warm lab the students were both physically and mentally exhausted. Edison’s quote “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration” seemed apt for this experience of what it can be like to work at the front line of science. On Sunday, the PCR amplified DNA sequences were prepared for separation by gel electrophoresis. Electrophoresis involved only six steps, with a wait of some 40 min until the DNA bands had finished their migration. Students enjoyed watching their progress and it provided an ideal opportunity for them to be photographed with pipette in hand as they posed like forensic scientists, CSI-style! Under a blue light, students could then observe a clear band corresponding to a 185 base pair sequence, which illustrated that they had successfully isolated the required gene needed for DNA sequencing (Figure 5). The scientists noted that school laboratories provide a pristine environment uncontaminated by amplified DNA. This clean environment helped the students prepare great samples and successfully amplify the bar codes needed to determine the bacterial community living in the sand at the hot water springs. However, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is rather temperamental and some reactions work better than others. While the reasons for this variation are not always predictable, primers often have a significant effect on how well PCR reactions work. Although the students used a robust set of primers that amplified well,

Evaluating the student experience Upon completion of the project, students were asked to participate in a survey to determine how the project had affected their perceptions and understanding of science and DNA sequencing. Thirty-six students (11 males and 25 females) responded to this short online survey. The majority of the students found the experience both enjoyable (left-hand column) and interesting (right-hand column) (see Fig 6). A very small number of students found some aspects of the work not enjoyable or not interesting. This is itself an interesting finding because these students were all volunteers, working in their own time. It may be that these few found out that the type of work involved in a genetic inquiry was not what they had expected it to be. The large non-response for “the work at the beach” reflects the fact that only one school took part in this stage. Following completion of the study, almost all the students said they had a better idea of what working scientists actually do, were keen to have other similar experiences, had become more interested in science as a career, and most were also motivated to work harder in science (Figure 7). Interestingly, responses were somewhat more spread for the items that implied a more traditional school learning focus: that the experience had helped with preparing for New Zealand Association of Science Educators

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Figure 6: Studentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; enjoyment of, and interest in, the metagenome project.

Figure 7: Outcomes from participation in the metagenome project. 34

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so they could make real meaning from the information in the science careers’ posters (Vaughan, forthcoming 2011). In this way, student experiences of participation in science can increase both their engagement and their capabilities for making meaningful decisions about moving into STEM-related careers.

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In conclusion This project has been a successful trailblazer for developing an authentic investigation where school students work alongside scientists to address a scientific question for which the answer is not yet known. This success is manifest in different ways for the different groups of participants. Firstly, success meant that the teachers and students all gained a rich direct experience of new DNA technologies and the practical application of the scientific method. Secondly, for the MBAS’ students this experience flowed on to a strong interest and success in completing related work on the ethical implications of such technologies. Thirdly, the results of the experiment are of a publishable standard and will be of interest to others in the science community. Moreover, at least some of the students are now considering a science career as a result of taking part. Finally, similar projects are planned for 2012. If you would like to participate in similar projects or to find out more please contact Justin O’Sullivan: j.m.osullivan@ massey.ac.nz, or call: 09 4140800 ext. 9811.

References Fraser, J. (2011) Towards the $1000 genome. New Zealand Science Teacher, 126, 19-20. Goffeau, A., Barrell, B.G., Bussey, H., Davis, R.W., Dujon, B., Feldmann, H., Galibert, F., Hoheisel, J.D., Jacq, C., Johnston, M. et al. (1996). Life with 6000 genes. Science, 274, 546-563. Hipkins, R., Roberts, J., Bolstad, R., & Ferral, H. (2006). Staying in Science 2: Transition to tertiary study from the perspectives of New Zealand year 13 science students. Wellington. Lander, E.S., Linton, L.M., Birren, B., Nusbaum, C., Zody, M.C., Baldwin, J., Devon, K., Dewar, K., Doyle, M., FitzHugh, W. et al. (2001). Initial sequencing and analysis of the human genome. Nature, 409, 860-921. Ministry of Education. (2009). Career Education and Guidance in New Zealand Schools. Wellington: Learning Media. Vaughan, K. (2011 forthcoming). The potential of career management competencies for renewed focus and direction in career education. New Zealand Annual Review of Education Te Arotake a Tau o Te Ao o te Matauranga i Aotearoa. Vaughan, K., Roberts, J. & Gardiner, B. (2006). Young People Producing Careers and Identities. First Report from the Pathways and Prospects Project. Wellington: NZCER. Venter, J.C., Adams, M.D., Myers, E.W., Li, P.W., Mural, R.J,. Sutton, G.G., Smith, H.O., Yandell, M., Evans, C.A., Holt, R.A. et al. (2001). The sequence of the human genome. Science, 291, 1304-1351. Vetleseter Bøe, M. (2011). Science choices in Norwegian upper secondary school: What matters? Science Education, published online 6 September 2011. http:// onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/sce.20461/abstract

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NCEA assessment or had stimulated an interest to pursue further questions. While some students strongly agreed with these items, others now disagreed. Individually, the students were very consistent in the way they responded to the three sets of questions. This tells us that those who were really interested in the experience were really interested in all of it, and the same held for enjoyment and positive outcomes. It was also apparent that students who really enjoyed it also found it very interesting and, not surprisingly, reported strongest agreement that they had achieved positive outcomes. Research suggests that students are less likely to consider STEM (science, technology, mathematics) careers if they do not know people engaged in such careers (Hipkins, Roberts, Bolstad, & Ferral, 2006), and if they cannot make personally engaging connections between their school-based learning and questions or issues of interest in real world contexts (Vetleseter Bøe, 2011). This investigation was designed to address this issue while making the nature of the scientific work visible, and providing students with an opportunity to see scientists as real people with a passion for their work. Overall, the survey confirmed that the project had a really positive effect on the students’ perceptions of what working scientists do. Moreover, it was also clear that they became more interested in a science career and studying further with the scientists they met. Finally, they were overwhelmingly motivated to work harder in science. There are implications here for the way in which science teachers might be encouraged to think about what they can contribute to the new career management competencies that schools are being encouraged to integrate throughout the curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2009). Career education in New Zealand schools has typically been modelled around delivery of pre-packaged information, advice and work-experience to students in ways that leave them ill-equipped for career decisions that now span a lifetime (Vaughan, Roberts & Gardiner, 2006). Career management competencies are potential game-changers here because they reframe career activities away from teacher delivery and student acquisition of knowledge, skills, and experience to student development of capabilities for mobilising them. This requires teachers to think much more about learning opportunities and engaging pedagogies. In practical terms this means that science teachers would no longer simply display classroom posters about possible science-related careers but would engage students in authentic experiences of scientific work

continued from page 48 Footnotes

References

1

Arnon, D.I. (1982). Sunlight, earth life – the grand design of photosynthesis. The Sciences, 22(7), 22-27. Buchanan, P. (2011). The missing f-word: fungi. New Zealand Science Teacher,128, 26-29. Fuller, R., Buchanan, P., & Roberts, M. (2004). Maori knowledge of fungi/ Maatauranga o Ngaa Harore In E.H.C. McKenzie (ed.) Introduction to fungi of New Zealand. Fungi of New Zealand Volume 1. Hong Kong: Fungal Diversity Press (pp. 81-118). Magee, B. (1998). The story of philosophy. London: Dorling Kindersley. O’Sullivan, J.M., Scott, P., & Hipkins, R. (2012). Scientists and students collaborate to learn about DNA sequencing in an authentic learning experience. New Zealand Science Teacher, 129, pp31-36 Yoon, C.K. (2010). Naming nature: The clash between instinct and science. New York: Norton.

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Arnon (1982), p.22. Buchanan (2011). O’Sullivan et al. (2012) describe a similar exercise. Yoon (2010, p.15, 234) discusses how the public’s shared perceived world (the human ‘unwelt’, as she calls it) contrasts with the way molecular biologists— sometimes tagged ‘gel jockeys’ by traditionalists—have begun to rewrite the entire natural order. Yoon (2010) pp.234-7. The word harore has only recently been co-opted to apply to the whole Western scientific group of ‘fungi’. According to Fuller et al. (2004), historical literature about Maori usage of harore (or harori) indicates that the word harore was used variously: for all edible fungi, for mushroom-like fungi only, for seasonal fungi only, and so on. Refer Magee (1998) pp.132-5.

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teaching causal text connectives in chemistry A Year 12 Chemistry class struggled with writing long answers to NCEA Chemistry questions because they didn’t understand the use of causal text connectives. A literacy intervention changed classroom practice and improved students’ NCEA scores, as David Whitehead, the University of Waikato, and Fiona Murphy, Sacred Heart Girls’ College Hamilton explain: The challenge: long-answer format questions Since the advent of long-answer format questions in the 2008 National Certificate of Educational Achievement1 (NCEA) Chemistry examination, students have faced and failed the literacy challenge posed by the new format. Coinciding with the advent of long-answer science questions, Fiona, a teacher of Year 12 Chemistry, noticed a decrease in students’ ‘Excellence’ grades, and an increase in ‘Standards Not Attempted’. More specifically, as the 2007-2008 data indicate (see Table 1), she had noticed an increase in the percentage of students ‘Not Achieving’ in Atomic, Reactivity and Redox topics, a decrease in ‘Merits’ achieved in two of those topics, and a marked reduction in ‘Excellences’. Investigation of these results indicated that students did not attempt standards because of a lack of time, rather than a lack of knowledge. In short, it appeared they were not skilled enough to write connected text answers quickly. These suspicions were confirmed by the 2008 NCEA Chemistry examiner’s report that stated the most common problem among students attempting long-answer questions was that they wrote in statement form. This form had been appropriate for short-answer questions in previous years, but it was inappropriate for the new long-answer question format. Nationally, chemistry teachers were now faced with the added responsibility of helping their students write more cogently. Locally, Fiona was determined to meet this new challenge with her Year 12 chemistry classes, but to do Table 1: NCEA results from three, Year 12, mixed ability classes in one school by topic 2007-2008

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Year

Topic

Not achieved (%)

Achieved (%)

Merit (%)

Excellence (%)

2007

Atomic

11.4

36.4

38.6

13.6

2008

Atomic

21.9

43.8

32.8

1.6

2007

Reactivity

16.7

61.9

19.0

2.4

2008

Reactivity

22.4

55.2

22.4

0.0

2007

Redox

14.0

41.9

32.6

11.6

2008

Redox

25.9

46.6

22.4

5.2

The NCEA is New Zealand’s national achievement standards-based qualification at four levels (not achieved, achieved, merit and excellence), and operates in the last three years of high school. Achievement standards are assessed internally or externally through end-of-year examinations and are constructed based on generic marking criteria.

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so she needed to establish exactly why her chemistry students found writing connected text challenging. Fiona discovered, by answering NCEA questions herself and studying exemplars, that demonstrating an understanding of the science underpinning chemical reactions, and of the chemical reactions themselves, was dependent on an ability to compose justifications. Further, the secret to writing these justifications lay in the use of causal text connectives such as ‘because’ and ‘however’. Text connectives assist writers to compose appropriate relationships among (scientific) ideas. Derewianka (2002) suggests they serve as ‘signposts’, and are as essential in the composition of chemistry explanations as they are in the composition of narrative (Meyers, Shinjo, & Duffy, 1987). Figure 1 lists a range of text connectives of which Fiona’s Y12 chemistry students needed those showing cause/result. Clarifying

Showing cause/ result

Indicating time

in other words for example that is namely in fact

so therefore consequently due to..., owing to because of this

then next finally meanwhile previously

Sequencing ideas

Adding information

Condition/ concession

firstly, first, second, third... at this point to conclude given the above points to get back to the point

too in addition also again similarly

in that case however despite this even so if not

Figure 1: Text connectives (Ref: Derewianka, 2005, p.110-111). To confirm her initial hunch, Fiona collected baseline data from students in the form of written responses to a long-answer Y12 chemistry examination question that was based on content taught during Year 11. Answers were analysed around three criteria: (i) the use of key content words; (ii) the use of definitions; and (iii) the construction of justifications, which required the use of causal text connectives. It was evident from an analysis of this data that students could use key content words to compose factual statements, but could not link these with causal text connectives. Without the use of these connectives students were limited to ‘Achieved’ grades. Together, results from an analysis of baseline data, and the knowledge that the next NCEA chemistry examination would include long-answer type questions, engendered a sense of urgency around teaching students how to use causal text connectors. Success was by no means certain. However, Fiona hypothesised that teaching connectors to one class, might help them make explicit understandings of the casual inferences associated with, for example, formula


Teaching causal connectors 1. The teacher Fiona has taught science for 13 years and admits to being a teacher of chemistry first, not a teacher of writing. Nevertheless, she was knowledgeable, and increasingly so, about the literacy demands of her subject, and the literacy needs of her chemistry students. This was especially the case in regard to their ability to answer long-answer examination questions, which she believed had become as much an exercise in writing as they were a test of scientific knowledge. Fiona was clear that it was no longer acceptable for teachers of science to use the adage that the teaching of writing should be left to English teachers. Rather, she believed students of science needed to be taught how to write science. Fiona was motivated by a desire to see her students succeed, determined that the literacy requirements of Year 12 chemistry did not create an extra burden on her students, or herself, and keen that teaching writing was seamlessly integrated into the class routine. 2. The students The research was conducted in a decile 7, urban, girls’ school, with a roll of 880 students. The school’s NCEA pass rate is one of the highest in the area, especially at Levels 2 and 3. The students in the three research classes were sixteen or seventeen years old. To enter the Year 12 chemistry course students needed to pass two out of four Year 11 NCEA science external examinations, including a chemistry paper. There was a similar distribution of above ability English students in each of the three research classes. The classes were equivalent, because they had similar Year 11, Level 1, NCEA science profiles, and because the majority of students in each class were studying for the Cambridge English examination, or were in the upper ability English classes. 3. The plan The goal was to help students construct long answers to chemistry examination questions. To achieve this, Fiona planned a year-long programme designed to teach causal text connectives. She selected three mixed ability Year 12 chemistry classes: Class 1: ‘literacy intervention’ class of 22 students, and taught by Fiona; Class 2: ‘control’ class of 21 students, and taught by Fiona; and Class 3: ‘neutral’ class of 23 students, and taught by another teacher. 4. The process Fiona discussed with the students her proposal to conduct research as part of her teaching. The research design included semi-structured interviews, observations and written feedback from students to describe the effect of the embedded literacy intervention. The general question: “What effect is the ‘language focus’ having on your writing?” was used during interviews with both individuals and small groups of students. Subsidiary questions used were: 1. How did you find the concentration on writing during the Chemistry topics? 2. Do you feel more comfortable attempting the examination questions? Please explain your answer. 3. Now that you have this knowledge about writing, how would you approach an examination question? Observations of students during each class were recorded in a reflective diary. More formal written feedback was obtained each school term when students were asked to

write a response to the general question: “What effect is the ‘language focus’ having on your writing?” NCEA data from the three Year 12 classes were compared descriptively. 5. The teaching procedures At the beginning of the year, before any chemistry teaching commenced, the class discussed the use of text connectives. Fiona demonstrated on the white board how the two sentences: ‘Sodium chloride is an ionic compound. It has positive and negative ions.’ can become a justification with the use of a causal text connective: ‘Sodium chloride is an ionic compound because it contains positive and negative ions.’ Fiona’s class was then introduced to other text connectives that can be used when composing long-answer chemistry questions (see Figure 1 cause/results words). Subsequent lessons involved students constructing further justifications from two sentences by using the connectives.

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The Lewis structures of two molecules, NH3 and COCl2, are shown below. Base question: Discuss the polarity of these molecules. NH3 COCl2 H–N–H Cl – C – Cl | || H O

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representing chemical reactions and scientific explanations of why those reactions occurred. Additionally, the construction of long answers that used these connectives would, Fiona assumed, make clearer to examiners whether her students understood the science.

Use the following statements and justifications to answer the question above. Do not forget every statement needs to be linked to a justification. • NH3 is a polar molecule • COCl2 is also a polar molecule • 4 areas of electron repulsion around the central atom • 3 areas of electron repulsion around the central atom • 3 bonding and one non-bonding • All areas are bonded • Shape is trigonal planar • Shape is trigonal pyramid • Bonds are polar • Difference in electronegativity • Bonds are asymmetrical • Effect of them is not cancelled. Figure 2: Example of an activity using Starter Statements (adapted from 2008 Atomic and Bonding examination). Cloze exercises were also used to teach the use of text connectives. Students were already familiar with the use of cloze exercises to teach key vocabulary. In the present context, Fiona designed cloze passages that included justifications and deleted the causal text connectives to construct the cloze exercise. A list of causal text connectives was listed below the cloze. Additionally, students were given a question with a list of statements and justifications. Their task was to align the statements and matching justifications, and link them with an appropriate text connective (see Figure 2). For example, students used the bulleted statements listed in Figure 2 to help them develop their justifications. After they had written their answers, students highlighted the causal text connectives. As the students became familiar with the activity, it was made more complex by Fiona providing statements and the students composing links and justifications. Another activity designed to highlight the role of causal text connectives involved students responding to New Zealand Association of Science Educators

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Table 3: NCEA 2010 results for Year 12 mixed ability class, by class and topic Year/ topic

Not achieved (%)

Achieved (%)

Merit (%)

Excellence (%)

SNA (%)

Atomic Class 1 ( literacy intervention) Class 2 (control) Class 3 (neutral)

18 19 30

41 48 39

28 29 26

14 -

4 5

Reactivity Class 1 ( literacy intervention) Class 2 (control) Class 3 (neutral)

5 14 35

18 24 35

32 24 13

18 5 4

27 36 13

Redox Class 1 ( literacy intervention) Class 2 (control) Class 3 (neutral)

27 19 35

14 38 39

32 14 13

23 -

4 29 13

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long-answer questions individually, and then revising these answers as a group. Students then looked at other groups’ work to identify if they needed to add anything to their own answer. Next, they highlighted statements, causal text connectives and justifications using different coloured pens. Finally, the teacher’s model answer was provided and students used this to further review their own work. Initially, students needed direction on how to review their examination answers and move from a position that their work was “right” or “wrong”, to focus on their strengths, and identifying areas for further development.

The class created the following framework: “Statement à Justification à The science”. For example: Statement: NaCl is an ionic compound Justification: Because it contains sodium ions and chloride ions held in a 3D lattice The science: Ionic compounds form strong electrostatic forces due to the transfer of electrons. The sodium ion (cation) will lose an electron, which will be gained by the chloride ion (anion). Consequently ionic compounds have the following properties...

Results

Discussion

1. NCEA test results NCEA test results provided one comparative measure of whether the literacy intervention was associated with improved student achievement. Table 3 indicates the 2010 NCEA results by topic for the three ‘mixed ability classes involved in Fiona’s research. The most notable result is the percentage of ‘Excellence’ grades achieved by the ‘literacy intervention’ class across all the three topics. Another notable feature is the success of the ‘literacy intervention’ class at the ‘Merit’ pass level, especially with the Reactivity and Redox topics. In contrast, Class 3, the ‘neutral’ class, had the largest percentage of ‘Not Achieved’ and ‘Achieved’ grades of all three classes. 2. Student feedback Student feedback provided a second measure of change associated with the literacy intervention. At the beginning of the literacy intervention, students had stated that connectives were important in English, but not in chemistry. After demonstrating the role of causal text connectives when composing science justifications, the students started to understand that connectives were just as important in chemistry. At the end of each unit, literacy intervention class students answered the question: “What effect is the ‘language focus’ having on your writing?” Students responded that the language focus was “useful” and that they “could see why literacy was important”. They also indicated that they would like other subjects to concentrate on writing. These students felt unanimously “more comfortable” to attempt the examination questions, because they knew how to structure their justifications. They also realised the importance of definitions, and their role as “answer starters”. Students also identified the need to back-up every statement with a reason and to back the reason with the science. An indicator of this understanding emerged during the literacy intervention group’s examination preparation.

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Fiona’s literacy intervention was prompted by changes to the 2008 NCEA examination that required students to write long answers. Examination data from 2007 to 2010 indicated that the change from short-answer to long-answer questions had challenged students who were, nevertheless, confident with the content of their chemistry programme. Baseline data indicated that Fiona’s class was less confident writing cohesive answers in the form of connected text. This initial finding suggested students were unable to transfer their understanding of text connectives from their English classes, as much as it indicated the demands of chemistry as a unique discourse. What the research indicates is the importance of baseline data, of knowing students’ needs, of engaging in research-based teaching and of appropriate pedagogical content knowledge. In respect to the latter, Fiona was able to select and apply a range of appropriate and effective literacy strategies designed to improve students’ writing, and more specifically, assist her students to better structure their understanding of chemistry concepts. Positive changes to the examination, coupled with responsive changes to how Fiona taught enabled her students to acquire the discourse of science, which in turn gave them access to the world of chemistry. In short, Fiona was able to scaffold her students into the way scientists write, think and create their reality. By adopting the mantra of “every teacher a teacher of literacy” Fiona’s intervention empowered her students; an empowerment that was ultimately socially signified by high levels of ‘Merit’ and ‘Excellence’ passes in a national high-stakes examination. For further information contact davidw@waikato.ac.nz

References Derewianka, B. (2002). A grammar companion. Newtown, NSW: Primary English Teaching Association. Derewianka, B. (2005). A functional model of language. North Sydney: Board of Studies, New South Wales. Myers, J.L., Shinjo, M., & Duffy, S.A. (1987). Degree of causal relatedness and memory. Journal of Memory and Language, 26, 453-465.


Role play, using the Primary Connections Programme, in pre-service primary science teacher education gave Year 2 student primary teachers insights into the teaching and learning of science in primary classrooms, as Anne Hume (University of Waikato) explains: Some background Like many other countries, NZ primary schools tend to place low priority on science education and there are a number of reasons for this situation. Research indicates many primary teachers may lack confidence in teaching science, which is often linked to limited science content knowledge (Bolstad & Hipkins, 2008; Kenny, 2010), and may even lead some to ‘avoidance’ of science in their classroom (Tytler et al., 2008). Another factor possibly compounding the problem is the raised profile of literacy and numeracy in the New Zealand Curriculum (2007), placing even greater pressure on primary science education if schools relegate science in their curriculum. Not surprisingly, there is evidence that many primary students are disengaging from science at a time when their inherent curiosity about the physical world should be to the fore, capitalised upon and promoted in teaching and learning programmes. Here in NZ attitudinal data collected during the National Educational Monitoring Project (NEMP) across four sample rounds (1995, 1999, 2003, 2007) indicate a trend for students to disengage in science from middle primary, Year 4, to upper primary, Year 8 (Bolstad & Hipkins, 2008). Clearly in this environment the task of science teacher educators preparing primary student teachers for their future career is going to be challenging! How does one equip these novice teachers in teacher education programmes with the knowledge and skills that will raise the status of science education in primary schools and engage their students in long-term science learning?

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with my Year 2 science education option class. I’ve been impressed by the quality of the resources and find them very flexible and easy to adapt to the New Zealand context. Each topic contains extensive coverage of the science background, linkages to literacy, and the 5Es approach as it applies to that topic. The teaching notes to support the 5Es stages and activities are detailed and designed to guide a teacher through every aspect of each lesson including: learning outcomes, background science concepts and skills, teaching sequence for the lesson including focus questions and photocopiable activity sheets. The programme is sufficiently flexible for teachers to adapt to their students’ specific learning needs and provide opportunities for the students to investigate their own questions if they so wish. I began exploring the possibility of selecting a PCP unit to teach as a component of the course in a form of role play, rationalising that if my student teachers participated as ‘students’ and then reflected on their learning experiences and the actions of their ‘teacher’ (me!) they might gain some insights into the thinking and basis upon which expert science teachers make decisions about their pedagogy for particular science topics/concepts. The experience might also have the added bonus of enhancing the student teachers’ science content knowledge. I planned to use 8 of the 24 two-hour workshops to teach a PCP unit called ‘It’s Electrifying’. The student teachers were required to keep science journals (a reflective tool used in the PCP approach) and to write an evaluation of the suitability of the programme for the New Zealand context for course assessment purposes.

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Findings As the simulation unfolded and the processes of teaching and learning proceeded, many interesting dynamics came to light as we interacted. For example, all of us went into role with ease and felt very comfortable and involved. The student teachers responded positively to my PCP pedagogy and appreciated my attempts at enacting the teaching as advocated by the PCP. However, on occasions the boundaries between real and imagined became blurred as my student teachers found it difficult to stay in role and wanted answers which were not always forthcoming. Despite some

Developing a pedagogy using Primary Connections As a science teacher educator, I want my student teachers to develop pedagogies that extend their thinking about teaching science beyond good classroom management and activities that transmit information. I want them them to focus on developing pedagogies that are student-centred. The initiative known as the PrimaryConnections: linking science with literacy (Australian Academy of Science, 2005) has at its core a teaching and learning model known as the 5Es which is closely aligned to the pedagogical approaches and learning goals of the New Zealand Curriculum (2007). This model (see Figure 1) “is based on an inquiry and investigative approach in which students work from questions to undertake investigations and construct explanations. …Assessment is integrated with teaching and learning.” (Academy of Science, 2005, p.2). For several years I have been working with the PCP and its resources, selecting various activities for use in workshops

Phase

Focus

Engage

Engage students and elicit prior knowledge. Diagnostic assessment.

Explore

Provide hands-on experience of the phenomenon.

Explain

Develop science explanations for experiences and represenations of developing understandings. Formative assessment.

Elaborate

Extend understandings to a new context or make connections to additional concepts through student-planned investigations. Summative assessment of the investigating outcome.

Evaluate

Re-represent understandings, reflect on learning journey and collect evidence about achievement of conceptual outcomes. Summative assessment of conceptual outcomes.

Figure 1: The Primary Connections teaching and learning model. New Zealand Association of Science Educators

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frustration at not getting straight answers they came to realise the value of my teaching strategies. Here is some feedback with my comments appended to them (note: pseudonyms have been used for the student teachers): [The teacher] would always repeat back to us what we were saying to clarify our understanding…Why can’t you just tell us if we’re right or not you know, but she was getting us to really think deeply and sort of critically about what we were saying and what other people were saying and whether if we could back up what we’re saying with reasons and stuff. She was always questioning us and making us explain what we meant. (Elaine) I sometimes found the pressure to ‘simply tell’ difficult to ignore at times and fell into transmission mode, but the student teachers were forgiving. As they reflected on their experiences as learners they were somewhat surprised at their own reactions and the depth of understanding they gained about learning as Gina notes: I also think that doing it from the learner’s perspective we also were able to critique it more deeply because if we just looked at it from a teaching perspective…you can sit back and think oh well if I was a kid I could really engage with that – well, I engaged with it. The unusually prolonged nature of the role play provided my student teachers with insights into science teaching and learning processes, both from the perspective of learner and of the teacher. The simulation gave them a platform from which to reflect about issues and problems that may face them as novice primary teachers of science, and interestingly, they identified and took ownership of potential solutions offered by the role play experience. As novice teachers, their confidence and enthusiasm about teaching science was boosted by the availability of the PCP resources, which they believed helped them understand the NZC requirements. …and what Primary Connections does is it gives teachers a way of teaching and it explains it and it goes in-depth and it actually enables them to teach it rather than making them feel left out or uneasy about it. (Zane) Well, it also sort of opened our eyes to the New Zealand curriculum…it’s a [core] statement and sometimes it can be quite overwhelming, especially for beginning teachers, to sort of look at it and think, ‘what do I do?’ (Gina) It just made it a lot more approachable because, like they’ve said that science can be such a complicated thing and it scares a lot of teachers off; maybe [they’re] looking into it too much at primary level. So yeah, the Primary Connections just made it that much more approachable. (Louise) For all student teachers the simulation facilitated further development of their science content knowledge as Steve and Carl note: Well, I guess the ‘It’s Electrifying’ was at a higher stage, which was probably quite relevant because we’re older as well, and then it had a bit more detail, I guess, than some of the lower ones. So it kind of got us really thinking and we didn’t obviously know that much about the battery when we got into it so it was quite…it was good for us as well. (Steve) We also had a few side lessons where we explored a little bit more than what you could in a class, like cutting opening the battery and having a look at what’s inside it, which is… (Carl) Their science journal entries recorded many instances of new science learning occurring, including understanding about science and how scientific ideas develop over time.

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Nancy wrote: This [cartoon history of Volta’s life] was really interesting because I never thought that the battery was invented so early in time and it showed what work and how long it had taken to lead up to the invention of the battery. Their growing professional knowledge was very apparent and directly related to their simulation experiences. Here Gina comments in her reflection journal on a key aspect of students’ understanding of science that she had learned during an electric circuit role play activity: Avoiding misconceptions, it is important that the teacher makes sure the students don’t build misconceptions such as “we are carrying electrons to the bulb” – must say “you are the electrons – what are you picking up at the battery and taking it to the bulb.” Similarly Steve alludes to his orientations towards science teaching and knowledge of assessment when he notes: I am beginning to see the importance of the EXPLORE part of the Primary Connections programme. There’s no difference at any age when it comes to experiencing science by doing, instead of just listening. It allows the students to make formative assessments about the work they do, and increases their observation skills by being involved in the process of investigation, planning and understanding of how it works. Zane also picks up on his orientations towards science teaching as he identifies knowledge of instructional strategies, and when and how to use them through his knowledge of students’ understanding of science: I also think the activities in it [the It’s Electrifying unit] were a bit more sophisticated and more relevant for us as well; like, [so if] the cross-sectional drawings, the labelled diagrams – there was a lot more terminology in it than there is in the younger books and I think for me particularly it gave me a broader awareness of all the things that science does involve and if you say the wrong word you’re actually talking about a whole different thing of what you want the students to do. I think when [she asked us] to do a cross-sectional drawing and we came back with eleven different things that were all wrong, because we all took it our own way. My student teachers gained science content knowledge but they also became more aware of their own national science curriculum as they drew parallels between the PCP and the NZC as Elaine comments: ...it was an Australian programme so it’s not written for the New Zealand curriculum but it just made us have a look at how easily you can fit it in with the New Zealand curriculum and that it does just transfer straight across – you can use achievement objectives from the New Zealand curriculum to fit in with it really easily so it’s really useful. Yeah, and so it just showed us how it does relate to the New Zealand curriculum and it’s perfectly relevant in New Zealand, it’s not just for Australia. The evaluation task proved to be a showcase for the student teachers’ growing professional knowledge. In giving positive endorsement to the PCP for use in New Zealand classrooms they highlighted their understanding of: the purposes of science education; curriculum requirements including scientific literacy; student learning of science, and effective pedagogy and assessment; when illustrating the close linkages between the programme and the NZC. Students felt the keeping of the science journal throughout the unit was a very useful part of the assessment,

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picture books open door to investigating science Investigating in science is one aspect of the Nature of Science (NoS) that focuses on: carrying out science investigations using a variety of approaches; classifying and identifying; pattern seeking; exploring, investigating models; fair testing; making things; or developing systems (Achievement Aim, Nature of Science NZC) retrieved from The New Zealand Curriculum Online: http://tinyurl.com/233vmpe. The science charts are located at: http://tinyurl. com/7ph38oc. Picture books can be used to engage students with science, and introducing the key aspects of investigating in science. They can be a great launching pad to help students to not only build a foundation for understanding their world, but also to make links between scientific knowledge and their decisions and actions, and helping them to meet the objectives of both the Investigating and the Participating and Contributing sub-strands of NoS. So what might the Investigating in Science sub-strand look like in a classroom using the picture book, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers? 2 The book tells the 1974 story of Philippe Petit, a young French aerialist who threw a tightrope between the two Towers of the World Trade Center and then walked, danced, and performed tricks 402 metres above the ground.3 Begin by sharing this story with your students, and then after some group thinking and discussion record their science ideas and questions. For example: How can people walk along a narrow wire or rope? What do they use to help them? Could I balance on a rope? What would I need to help me balance? Does the type and thickness of the wire or rope matter? What are the forces acting on the wire walker? How can we explore these forces? and What is this thing called, ‘Centre of Mass’? Try some of the following: balancing on one foot with your arms by your side, now try again with your arms outstretched; balancing on tiptoe, holding a book in each hand; and walking along a bench in the playground with your arms by your side or outstretched.

Finding out more – Balancing Bonanza What You Need: skewers, Plasticine, polystyrene blocks, a long piece of string stretched across the room. What You Do (1): Make a Plasticine space rocket (Figure 1) 1. Insert one skewer through a round blob of Plasticine so that the end of the skewer extends beyond the Plasticine. Does the position of the blob of Plasticine on the 1

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Ministry of Education. (2007). The New Zealand Curriculum. Wellington. New Zealand: Learning media (p.28). The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, by Mordicai Gerstein, Published by Roaring Brook Press, ISBN 0-7613-1791-0 For more information and videos Google ‘The man who walked between the towers’.

skewer make a difference? What happens if you change the size of the Plasticine blob? 2. Attach three more skewers at an angle to the central Plasticine blob. Could you attach more skewers? Could they be of different lengths? Could they be at different angles? 3. Attach more Plasticine to the ends of these three skewers. What happens if the blobs are all different sizes? 4. Adjust the angle of the skewers and the size of the Plasticine blobs so that the end of the central skewer (X) of your rocket balances on the end of your finger. Can you use a long piece of wood to extend the rocket? (Note: Balance point X on the end of a long stick or broom handle), Can you turn your space rocket into an animal by adding more skewers and Plasticine? Think about the lengths of the skewers, the size and position of the Plasticine blobs. Be creative! 5. What questions do you have about your balancing object?

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Picture books such as ‘The Man Who Walked Between the Towers’ can be used as a launching pad for Years 1 to 10 Nature of Science1, as Mary Loveless, School Support Services at the University of Waikato explains:

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Figure 1: A Plasticine space rocket.

What to do (2): Make a polystyrene tightrope walker 1. Insert a skewer vertically through a block of polystyrene with a short length protruding from the bottom. Does it make a difference how much skewer is protruding at the top or bottom of the block? 2. Insert two more skewers at an angle of about 45 degrees into the bottom of the block. Try a smaller or larger angle, what happens if you use more skewers? 3. Attach blobs of Plasticine to these two skewers. 4. Fix the string to suitable points to form a tightrope across the room. Does the type or surface of the string make a difference? Try smooth string like fishing nylon or rough string like gardening twine. What about the diameter of the string, does that make a difference? 5. Place your creation with the central skewer balanced on the string. 6. Adjust the angle and length of the skewers and the size of the Plasticine so that the block balances on the tightrope strung across the room. New Zealand Association of Science Educators

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Figure 3: Model of the Towers and tightrope.

Now…

Figure 2: Polystyrene tightrope walker. Reflecting on the Nature of Science: How have we behaved like scientists in investigating balancing? What are our ideas now? How, and why have they changed? Were there any patterns in what we found out? and What questions do you have now about your balance object?

The Science Ideas What’s going on here? Centre of mass: the point at which the whole mass of a body may be considered to be concentrated. This is the same as the centre of gravity, the point at which the whole mass of a body may be considered to act.

What have we found out? What other questions do we have? How could we find out more? Could we change position or the length of the skewers on our polystyrene block, to more resemble Philippe Petit’s balancing pole? Could we make a model of the Towers and the tightrope (Figure 3)? What other examples can we think of where the Centre of Mass is important? For example: on the balance beam, gymnasts have to keep their centre of mass right in the middle of their bodies, otherwise they will fall off the beam. Explore and investigate other examples! And check out Science Postcards, a free resource, for more ideas: http:// www.sciencepostcards.com/. For further information contact: loveless@waikato.ac.nz Note: The National Science Exemplars have a series of matrices that are broken down into key aspects with a series of progress indicators that can be used by students as a self-assessment tool. These indicators are also useful for teachers to help identify the learning and clarify the next teaching and learning steps: http://tinyurl.com/7qqrrvg

continued from page 40 because, while it informed the final evaluation, it also had longer-term value, as Carl notes: I think it’s probably one of the few assignments that we can actually use again. I mean, if we teach a unit in Primary Connections, we can flip back through the journal just to see how it all works, what we did, see what we liked, see what we didn’t like, and remind us what we should be doing with the kids. Whereas writing, let’s say, or some of the other assignments we get, you finish them and you throw them in a box and you never really look at them again.

confidence levels about prospective science teaching grew appreciably. Hopefully this confidence will translate into a readiness and desire on their part to teach science using inquiry-based student-centred approaches when they enter primary classrooms in a year or two and to greater engagement of students in science at primary schools! For further information contact: annehume@waikato. ac.nz, and for information about PCP visit: www.science.org. au/primaryconnections

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Australian Academy of Science. (2005). Primary Connections. Stage 2 Trial: Research report. Canberra, Australia: Australian Academy of Science. Bolstad, R., & Hipkins, R. (2008). Seeing yourself in science. The importance of the middle school years. Wellington, NZ: NZCER. Kenny, J. (2010). Preparing pre-service primary teachers to teach primary science: A partnership-based approach. International Journal of Science Education, 32(10), 1267-1288. Ministry of Education. (2007). The New Zealand Curriculum. Wellington, New Zealand: Learning Media. The Royal Society. (2010). Science and mathematics education, 5-14. A ‘state of the nation’ report. London: The Royal Society. Tytler, R., Osborne, J.F., Williams, G., Tytler, K., & Cripps Clark, J. (2008). Opening up pathways: Engagement in STEM across the primary-secondary school transition. A review of the literature concerning supports and barriers to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics engagement at primary-secondary transition. Canberra: Commissioned by the Australian Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.

Learning to teach is a complex business. The PCP simulation allowed me to model student-centred pedagogy in a context that met many of my student teachers’ learning needs and it enabled them to reflect from both sides of the teaching-learning boundary. Subject matter and pedagogy were taught together through role play using high quality resources, and reflection through different lens helped my student teachers transform the type of knowledge they acquire during course work into the type of knowledge they might need to teach in a (primary) school context. Their 42

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living world: Primary 5. Next, have students develop explanations for what they are seeing (Inferences). 6. Begin with questions about: What are the patterns, shapes, textures for? Do other items have similar features and what we can observe from them? Can our inferences remain the same, or should we change them with new information? 7. Make it clear to the students the difference between observing and making inferences, and ways scientists use both when explaining science ideas. Herrenkohl and Guerra (1998) found that if a teacher models the process of observing and inferring, then does this in either small groups or whole class, no matter what the science content is, it results in increased student learning. So give observation and inference a go and have fun exploring the school’s living world with your students!

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Written by Victoria Rosin, BEANZ Primary Representative A great way to start the year is to welcome your students with some science activities. Begin with making observations and inferences, this helps develop their scientific thinking and builds your students’ ability to work scientifically. Scientists use both observations and inferences to help explain the world, yet children think they only use observations (Akerson & Volrich, 2006). Observations and inferences are easy to do and builds Nature of Science (NoS) approaches into your programme, and you can continue to use them throughout the year. So how do you do this? 1. Use pot plants, insects from the school grounds, garden plants and their flowers and seeds, feathers, class aquarium or any suitable item students bring. 2. Set the items out, along with magnifying lenses, on a table or tray in a Nature Area or table in the classroom. 3. Have students spend time looking at, and talking about, the selected object either individually, or in small groups, follow with class discussion. 4. Use starter questions to find out what they notice about: colours, patterns, shapes, textures (observations).

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References Akerson, V.L., & Volrich. M. (2006). Teaching nature of science explicitly in a first-grade internship setting. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 43(4), 377–394. Herrenkohl, L.R., & Guerra, M.R. (1998). Participant structures, scientific discourse, and student engagement in fourth grade. Cognition and Instruction, 16(4), 431–473.

living world inY11–13 Written by Kate Rice, President of BEANZ My dog was diagnosed with a heart murmur by the vet who described what this meant and then prescribed medication to help the ‘heart work better’. The vet’s explanation for the dog’s coughing was: “The valve in the left of the heart is letting fluid run back into the lungs. The dog coughs to get rid of this fluid from the lungs.” As a biology teacher I reflected on the explanation and the image it produced for me. From this, I visualised fluid (blood) building up in the lungs as blood is pumped round the body by the heart. But how would the blood get into the lungs as it is retained in capillaries? Is my dog really coughing up fluid, or using coughing to assist the movement of blood in the lung capillaries back towards the heart? We teach our students that lungs are not muscular, but bags suspended in the chest cavity, with intercostal muscles and diaphragm contracting to assist gas exchange. Was the vet giving an explanation adequate for people to understand the affliction without completely stating the science behind the process? Is the vet’s explanation good enough for most people? (Scanlon, Murphy, Thomas, & Whitelegg, 2004) This made me reflect on the biology we teach, the texts students use and the focus placed on ‘Living World’ achievement objectives. Would building more Nature of Science (NoS) into teaching and learning programmes help students better understand socio-scientific issues in their world? Find out about health issues they or their parents are likely to come up against? Could programmes allow time to find out about causes, effects and treatments for: bypass surgery; heart murmurs; asthma; and blocked arteries? Upon hearing the dog’s ailment, my physiotherapist daughter responded “I didn’t think of dogs having heart murmurs. It’s what happens in humans with faulty heart valves. I hadn’t thought of them being like us!” Back to the

textbooks for some comparative anatomy, all of which raises questions about how we teach circulation and gas exchange. Do we focus on ‘humans’? Will a human biology focus increase student engagement? Do we bring NoS aspects into teaching and learning programmes? By using models and investigating relationships between scientific theories and the models, can we help students build a better understanding of the relationships between structure and function in living organisms? For example, many texts use stylised heart structure and double circulation systems’ diagrams. As teachers, we know you cannot find this when dissecting a mammal, but many students don’t link dissection findings to theoretical diagrams in textbooks. Clarifying and explaining the use of models and generalisations are essential parts of NoS in teaching. and address both ‘understanding about science’ and ‘investigating in science’ within the NoS strand on the New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007). Building NoS into Year 11–13 programmes will address student questions about their own ‘Living World’. Accumulate students’ questions as each topic progresses. Allow time to address these as the topic unfolds. Teachers do not have to provide all the answers; use the NoS aspects to help students find different ways to seek information and provide responses. Some of their search for suitable information for responses can provide valid assessment opportunities using internal standards such as Biology 1.2, 2.2, 2.3 or 3.2 too! Engage students better in their own ‘Living World’.

References Ministry of Education. (2007). The New Zealand Curriculum for English-medium teaching and learning in years 1 - 13. Wellington, NZ: Learning Media Limited. Scanlon, E., Murphy, P., Thomas, J., & Whitelegg, E. (Eds.). (2004). Reconsidering science learning. Milton Keynes, UK: RoutledgeFalmer.

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chemistry news Written by Suzanne Boniface Periodic Table – more changes! Just when we thought it was safe to print our new up-to-date periodic tables the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) has approved the names of the last super heavy elements to be discovered: elements 114 and 116. These elements were first discovered more than ten years ago by scientists from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, near Moscow in Russia, and Lawrence Livermore, California, USA. Element 114 – Flevorium: Element 114 will be named flevorium and given the atomic symbol Fl. Flerovium was chosen to honour the Flerov Laboratory where element 114 was synthesised. The laboratory was named after Georgii Flerov (1913–1990), a physicist who discovered the spontaneous fission of uranium. Element 116 – Livermorium: Element 116 will be named livermorium and have the atomic symbol Lv. Livermorium was chosen to honour the Lawerence Livermore National Laboratory in California from where a group of researchers joined with those of the Flerov Laboratory to carry out the work in Dubna which resulted in the synthesis of element 116. The co-operation and collaboration that has occurred in the discovery and naming of these two elements is a far cry from the controversy that surrounded the naming of some of the other heavy elements discovered in the 1960s and ‘70s. It is usual for the discoverers of new elements to be given naming rights with the names needed to be approved and made official by the appropriate IUPAC committee. However, during the Cold War there was considerable competition between scientists in the US and Russia later joined by those from West Germany. As a consequence, there were differing claims for the discovery of some of the elements and different proposals for their names. For example, the competing names for element 104 (rutherfordium and kurchatovium) were used for nearly three decades by competing laboratories. In 1995, IUPAC convened a committee of nine scientists to sort out the naming of elements 104 to 109. This committee introduced further controversy by refusing to accept the proposal by the discoverers of element 106 to name it seaborgium after Glenn Seaborg, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist. Seaborg was the principal or co-discoverer of ten elements: plutonium, americium, curium, berkelium, californium, einsteinium, fermium, mendelevium, nobelium. The committee decided that no element should be named for a living person, despite the fact that Einstein was still alive when element 99 was named after him. Such was the outcry about this decision that it was overturned two years later and element 106 was ratified as seaborgium, three years before Glenn Seaborg died.

Knitting the Periodic Table (IYC project) To celebrate the International Year of Chemistry (IYC), a group of knitters from around New Zealand and all over the world, have knitted all the named elements (that is, those named before August 2011) from hydrogen to copernicum.

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Each person knitted one element or a blank square that helped make the table into a large rectangle as seen in the picture above. There is a total of 162 squares, an estimated 8km of wool and about 700 hours of work. The finished work is 3.7m by 1.9m (see photo). The Table will eventually hang at Victoria University, but it can travel (with an accompanying PowerPoint presentation) if you have a special event in mind. Some knitters had special connections with the elements they chose to knit. The knitter who chose carbon worked in NZ’s carbon dating laboratory in the 1960s. The knitter of calcium encountered many different forms of calcium in bird bones, while doing his PhD. Some people chose an element that matched their initials. Others just liked the names! The knitted periodic table was a joint initiative between the Institute of Chemistry, the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington and the Royal Society. Perhaps it could inspire some collaboration between your technology, art and science departments to find creative ways of reproducing this icon of the chemical sciences.

Dr. Joe Schwarcz Another initiative that the NZ Institute of Chemistry undertook for International Year of Chemistry was to invite Dr. Joe Schwarcz to NZ. Joe is the Director of the Office for Science and Society at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He has received numerous awards for interpreting science for the general public. His books “Radar, Hula Hoops and Playful Pigs,”“The Genie in the Bottle,”“That’s The Way The Cookie Crumbles,”“Dr. Joe & What You Didn’t Know,”“The Fly in the Ointment,” “Let Them Eat Flax,”“Brain Fuel,”“An Apple A Day,”“Science, Sense and Nonsense,” and his latest, “Dr. Joe’s Brain Sparks” have all been best sellers and would make a great addition to any school or science department library. If you missed hearing Joe while he was in New Zealand, you can hear him debunk many of the popular myths about chemistry on his regular radio broadcasts and blogs at: http://www.cjad.com/Shows/TheDrJoeSchwarczShow.aspx. You can also download his talk with Kim Hill from RadioNZ: http://tinyurl.com/72ndjbp. For further information contact: Suzanne.Boniface@vuw.ac.nz


Written by Paul King

The 15th New Zealand Institute of Physics/Physikos Biennial Conference took place in Wellington in October 2011. The theme of the Conference was ‘Physics in our lives’. The conference attracted 150 delegates, from researchers and academics to teachers, and we all enjoyed a stimulating round of posters, research reports and equipment demonstrations. Professor David Perry opened the conference with a keynote address about the physical implications of fibrous molecules in living structures. This was a great way to start the conference as the information was directly relevant to secondary school physics teaching. Dr Hamish Campbell, from GNS, explained what is happening beneath Christchurch, right now! And Dr Elizabeth Swinbank, from the University of York, spoke about the Salters Horners Advanced Physics (SHAP) programme in the UK. SHAP integrates the content of traditional physics courses into a series of practical and appealing contexts. The scheme shows the promise of providing student appreciation, as well as effective preparation for further study. The contexts chosen, and their carefully designed activities, can be patched into any physics course at almost any level and definitely boost student ‘buy in’. Other highlights from the conference included: ‘Haggis’ Henderson performing (and dragging out audience performance of ) his latest suite of physics songs; Dr John Campbell in his recent incarnation as film producer gave us a preview of what looks to be a vivid documentary on Rutherford; and the final round of the local Junior Young

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Physicist Tournament. The enthusiasm and ability generated by tackling and presenting the results of real investigations makes this competition another way to inspire students as well as involving the wider community. Overall, the delegates were left with the inspiration and sense of community to sustain their involvement until the next conference. See you in Palmerston North in two years!!

The sound mirror As a contribution to spreading enthusiasm for physics, Laurie Christian, from Industrial Research Ltd., gave us a simple demonstration that we might all find a use for in our classrooms. 1. Use an A4 sized piece of card as a sound reflector. Hold the reflector in front of you so that it might bounce sound from your mouth back to your ears. Now hiss nice and steadily. Hissing is high frequency, about 5kHz. As you rotate the sound mirror in front of you, you will hear a sharp increase in noise level as the reflected sound lines up with your ears. The effect is startling enough to make you think that you have inadvertently made an extra loud effort. 2. Now hum at your sound mirror. Humming is low frequency, about 500Hz. You will hunt in vain for any hint of this low frequency reflecting from the card. Why should this be the case? What might this have to do with the sound heard from speakers in other rooms? If you require any help with explaining this or anything related to physics teaching contact David Housden: dhousden@xtra.co.nz

The questions include, “Why shouldn’t I keep my Siamese cat in the fridge?” or “Why were many-toed cats in the 19th century at risk of drowning?” The book will capture students’ interest potentially taking them further than they intended to learn. Each question has been thoroughly researched with clear scientific explanations and excellent photographs. On the CD for teachers, the e-book is included in Powerpoint format. This should appeal to visual learners. For teachers, the links to the curriculum and worksheets could be used to introduce a topic and/ or to check on student progress. There are answers for the worksheets, but no references to the topics covered. I will be leaving my copy in class to tempt students to dip into it.

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bookreview

book review Pet Genetics: Why Bulldogs Got Flat Faces & Manx Cats Lost Their Tails Author: Jane Young ISBN: 9780958274272 RRP: $44.95 (book and CD), $23.95 (book) Publisher: Triple Helix Resources (triplehelix@slingshot.co.nz) Reviewer: Heather Meikle, Palmerston North Girls’ High School Biology teacher Jane Young has produced another useful teaching resource for Level 1 to Level 3 Science/Biology students with her new book Pet Genetics. The text, a handy A5 size, has a question and answer format and explores a range of topics including: selective breeding, genes, genes plus, inherited health problems and gene technology.

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ocean science literacy In Issue 128 of the NZST I listed essential Earth Science literacy principles which could form ‘big ideas’ for an Earth Science course. And here are some essential Ocean Science literacy principles that could form the basis of a Marine Science course, writes Jenny Pollock. Ocean literacy is an understanding of the ocean’s influence on us and our influence on the ocean. Currently the fundamental role that the ocean plays in all aspects of the Earth System is hardly recognised in many science courses. However, new standards in Earth and Space Science and Biology mean that such a course could be assessed at senior level. So what are ocean literacy’s seven essential principles and fundamental concepts? I have taken the following from an ocean literacy website written for schools which is well worth checking out (see reference). Here are some fundamental concepts that feature in the seven essential principles: 1. The Earth has one big ocean with many features. • The ocean covers about 70% of the planet’s surface and 97% of the Earth’s water is in the ocean. • There is one ocean with many ocean basins, such as the North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Indian and Antarctic. • An ocean basin’s size, shape and features change with plate tectonic movements. • Earth’s highest peaks, deepest valleys and flattest vast plains are all in the ocean. • The ocean is connected by one circulation system powered by the Sun, wind, tides, the Earth’s rotation (Coriolis Effect) and water density differences. The circulation path follows the shape of ocean basins and adjacent land masses. • Seawater has unique properties: it is salty, and compared to fresh water its freezing point is lower, density slightly higher, electrical conductivity much higher, and it is slightly basic. 2. The ocean and life in the ocean shape the features of the Earth. • Many earth materials originate in the ocean. • Many of the sedimentary rocks now exposed on land were formed in the ocean, such as vast volumes of siliceous and carbonate rocks. • Tectonic activity, sea level changes, and force of waves over time influence the physical structure and landforms of the coast. • Sand consists of tiny bits of animals, plants, rocks and minerals. Most beach sand is eroded from land sources and carried to the coast by rivers, but sand is also eroded from coastal sources by surf. 3. The ocean is a major influence on weather and climate. • The ocean has a significant influence on climate change by absorbing, storing, and moving heat, carbon and water. • The ocean absorbs much of the solar radiation reaching Earth. Heat is lost by evaporation and this drives atmospheric circulation when, as water vapour, it condenses and forms rain. • The El Niño Southern Oscillation causes important changes in global weather patterns because it changes the way heat is released to the atmosphere in the Pacific.

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The ocean dominates the Earth’s carbon cycle because it absorbs roughly half of all atmospheric carbon dioxide through biological and chemical processes in the ocean. • Changes in the ocean’s circulation have produced large, abrupt changes in climate during the last 50,000 years. 4. The ocean makes Earth habitable. • The earliest evidence of life is found in the ocean. • Most of the oxygen in the atmosphere originally came from photosynthetic organisms in the ocean. 5. The ocean supports a great diversity of life and ecosystems. • Ocean life ranges in size from the smallest virus to the largest animal that has lived on Earth, the blue whale. • Most life in the ocean exists as microbes. Microbes are the most important primary producers in the ocean and they have extremely fast growth rates and life cycles. • Ocean biology provides many unique examples of life cycles, adaptations and important relationships among organisms that do not occur on land. • The ocean is three-dimensional, offering vast living space and diverse habitats from the surface through the water column to the sea floor. • Due to interactions of abiotic factors such as salinity, temperature, oxygen, pH, light, nutrients, pressure, substrate and circulation, ocean life is ‘patchy’ with some regions of the ocean supporting more diverse and abundant life than anywhere on Earth. Much of the ocean is considered a desert. • There are deep ocean ecosystems that are independent of energy from sunlight and photosynthetic organisms. 6. The ocean and humans are inextricably interconnected. • The ocean affects every human life by supplying freshwater (most rain comes from the ocean) and nearly all Earth’s oxygen. • It moderates the Earth’s climate, influences our weather, and affects human health. • From the ocean we get foods, medicines, and mineral and energy resources. • Much of the world’s population also live in coastal areas. • Humans affect the ocean in a variety of ways; human development and activity leads to pollution and physical modifications such as changes to beaches, shores and rivers. Also, humans have removed most of the large vertebrates from the ocean. 7. The ocean is largely unexplored. • Less than 5% of the ocean has been explored. • Over the last 40 years, use of ocean resources has increased significantly, and the future sustainability of these depends on our understanding of their potential and limitations. • New technologies, sensors and tools are expanding our ability to explore the ocean and scientists now rely on satellites, drifters, buoys, subsea observatories and unmanned submersibles. • Use of mathematical models is now an essential part of ocean sciences as they help us understand the complexity of the ocean and of its interaction with Earth’s climate. Reference: http://oceanliteracy.wp2.coexploration. org/ and the full document can be read at: http://www. coexploration.org/oceanliteracy/documents/OceanLitChart. pdf


NZ

science teacher

CONSTANZ 2011

I found CONSTANZ 2011 uplifting, especially hearing stories about the many ways in which Christchurch people are dealing with life post-earthquake and how they are finding ways to return to some normalcy. I had the unnerving experience of being awoken during my second night in Christchurch by a quake (a moderate M3.8). I am in no hurry for a repeat of that particular holiday experience! At the Conference 80 delegates received a moving Maori welcome, followed by welcomes from the local MP, Pete Hodgson, Chair of STANZ, Beryl McKinnell and Conference convenor, Margaret Woodford. The keynote speakers, Head of Chemistry, Otago University, Professor Lyall Hanton and the Director of New Zealand National Poisons’ Centre, Dr Wayne Temple, spoke about their roles in ensuring Otago University is compliant with OSH regulations. New Zealand is the first country to implement Global Harmonising System (GHS). I learnt about ‘earthquake restrainers’ which are used in NZ laboratories – and with good reason. Happily, these barriers on shelves proved their worth during the recent earthquakes. Otago University staff and students entertained delegates with a ‘magic chemistry show’ – lots of noise, mess and fun. Our last session of the first day involved two lab technicians from Christchurch giving an insight into the effect the earthquakes had on them and their schools: the drama of assembling students immediately after the quakes, parents taking students without informing teachers, phones out, traffic jams, damaged roads and buildings, liquefaction etc. They spoke of how after the quakes it was necessary for schools to combine due to closures. These, now very large schools, had staggered hours where students from one school might attend classes from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., with only a short break. In the afternoon another school, pupils and staff, would arrive for classes. The lab technicians, we were told, from both schools worked together, some starting early to prepare practicals and others leaving late after cleaning up and preparing for the next day. This was a sobering reminder of the need for co-operation, persistence, good humour and ingenuity by the lab technicians, school staff and the population of Christchurch, in general. On the first night we enjoyed a night tour of Orokonui Ecosanctuary (native flora and fauna). Day two was a mix of speakers, workshops, a harbour cruise and the conference dinner. The first speaker was the first holder of a Knighthood in Ecology, Emeritus Professor Sir Alan Mark. He is a legend! Sir Alan has been involved for fifty years involved in ecology and eco-politics ensuring

that the career of this octogenarian was too vast and varied to cover here. Suffice to say, a life dedicated to scientific monitoring, conservation of ecosystems and eco-politics resulting in the establishment of vast areas being protected in New Zealand is well worth researching. Our second speaker was science technician, Ian de Stigter, who presented a report on the status of NZ school technicians following a survey conducted in recent years, and a gender equity study of school support staff (91% women). In brief, lab technicians tended to be well-qualified (almost half have a Bachelor of Science). Ian is an advocate for increasing funding to schools for support staff for wages, PDs, paid holidays and a qualification allowance. There followed selected workshops in keeping with the Conference theme: ‘Nature’s Wonderland’. We then set out for an afternoon harbour cruise. After a coach trip around the edge of the harbour, we arrived at the Marine Research Centre and Aquarium for a tour of Otago University’s laboratories, which must be the most picturesque setting for a laboratory imaginable! Our cruise, unfortunately, was hampered by slightly rough conditions. The harbour was fine but outside the heads it was not so calm according to the skipper. So we had to content ourselves with a meander around the coastal hamlets and islands in the harbour. After returning to John McGlashan we were ready for the Conference dinner. For the dinner we were invited to wear a ‘touch of tartan’, and it was a sight to behold – some very enthusiastic delegates either came from Scottish stock or cleaned out their local second hand shops. The evening began with welcoming the haggis, where a local recited a relevant Robbie Burns poem and cut the paraded haggis as a before dinner ‘treat’. After dinner, Tony Zaharic, lecturer in biochemistry at Otago University, gave a humorous recollection of lab technicians at his secondary school in Australia and his appreciation of them now at Otago University. Our last day involved a wonderful selection of workshops at Otago University, including sessions back at the school. STANZ held their Annual General Meeting followed by the closing ceremony and the announcement that CONSTANZ 2013 is to held in Rotorua. Overall, the issues New Zealand school technicians face are very similar to their colleagues in Australia, but they are also interestingly different. The experiences of the Christchurch staff demonstrated how beneficial it can be when a lone lab technician joins forces collaboratively with technicians from other schools and discovers new ideas. And this is also what a conference is all about – getting together to improve our situation. Congratulations to the organising team for a well-run, interesting and fun Conference. For further information contact: Robyn.Eden@qmc.school.nz

New Zealand Association of Science Educators

STANZ

In October, I attended CONSTANZ 2011. Held every two years, the Conference was organised by the Science Technicians’ Association of New Zealand and was held in Dunedin over three days, writes Robyn Lyons, Copperfield College, Victoria, Australia.

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science/scienceeducationinterface:aconversation

129

seeing fungi: a conversation with Peter Buchanan Is it a reaction to Daniel Arnon’s famous quote that photosynthesis is “the most important biochemical process on Earth”1 that fuels Auckland mycologist Dr Peter Buchanan’s passion for fungi? ask Miles Barker (University of Waikato) and Carolyn Haslam (University of Auckland). Peter’s writing about his professional and private relationship with what he sees as an often overlooked and misunderstood group of organisms is both magisterial in its scope and rich and colourful in its everyday detail. His recent article2 about fungi in the New Zealand Science Teacher intriguingly raised numerous science educationrelevant issues and prompted us to explore them further with Peter.

Engaging the learner to see fungi First, there was the question of initial learner engagement: how and why had Peter himself become irreversibly fascinated with fungi in the first place? Had his experience been that of many young children whom we have observed in the outdoors – trees and bushes all seem rather ho-hum and then, by contrast, they stumble ecstatically upon the lurid oranges, reds and purples of slimy, stinky mushrooms and other fungal forms? Peter agrees that children are “so low to the ground that they naturally see (fungi) much easier than adults.” However, he admits that, for his own part, he never really ‘saw’ fungi until many years later because, from age five until his first year at the University of Auckland, “Animals were SO important…I had frogs, skinks, fish, a budgie and a cat.” And then, with a compulsory but inspiring Year One Botany paper, came a revelation: “I was stunned that plants could be so interesting.” Yet another twist was to follow. In addition to the Botany Department there was the Plant Pathology Department: “If I was blown away by plants, I was absolutely BOWLED OVER by fungi because I’d never really SEEN this whole kingdom of life before. I was just so naïve – not just the diversity of them, but the fundamental importance of what they do in the environment! It’s the same with most scientists – there are things that just sort of CAPTURE you and…I don’t know…you just run with it.” Since then, in the late 1970s, Peter’s focus has stabilized and his work with a “tight and progressive” community of scientists and technicians at DSIR and then at Landcare Research, Tamaki, has brought him abundant fulfilment.

Fungal forays for seeing fungi Peter-the-scientist’s article hinted that he also includes enthusing and informing the general public – an aspect of science education – as being integral to his life in science. He explained his thinking to us: “Science is not only something that you do for other scientists to further the whole cause of science; it is also something relevant to the public in a much greater way than they realise.” His perception has long been that, “Most people just overlook fungi or are aware of just a tiny subset of them.” Now, however, his managerial role has allowed him to engage in a wealth of activities at the science/science education interface: For 25 years the annual week-long ‘NZ Fungal Foray’ that 48

New Zealand Association of Science Educators

Peter helped initiate has provided an exciting learning experience for people of all ages; and the biennial 24-hour-long ‘Bio Blitz’ takes a whole laboratory into a public space (such as the Auckland Botanical Gardens in 2012) and interacts with the public in a survey of total biodiversity.3 Peter regularly hosts Royal Society Fellows, has visits from beginning teachers, writes articles about fungi in a variety of popular journals, frequently works with schools (especially nearby Tamaki College), and supports LENS awards at the Liggins Institute. Peter’s article, we had noted, has frequent recourse to Matauranga Maori, and our conversation was to reveal his carefully considered ideas about the social construction of knowledge at large. That the general public has only a weakly-developed construct of ‘fungi’ is hardly surprising to Peter, given that (fruiting bodies aside) fungi are largely invisible to the casual observer. Added to that is the relatively recent, often counter-intuitive, contribution of DNA analysis to taxonomy.4 For example, it is now well recognised that fungi are actually more closely related to animals than they are to plants.5 Given all of this, Peter “could not expect (early) Maori to even have a word for ‘fungi’ because to conceive of the group requires a Western construct,” together with “an understanding of evolution and genetics which wasn’t part of Matauranga Maori.” Nevertheless, over the years, Peter has explored Maori understandings about harore6 with enthusiasm. Two opportunities, in particular, have presented themselves. Firstly, there has been a special relationship with Tuhoe, triggered by a Fungal Foray many years ago at Tuai, near Lake Waikaremoana: “It was wonderful. We had a full welcome, engaged with the students in the school there, took them out into THEIR forest and showed them THEIR fungi that they had never seen before.” Secondly, Peter’s work in ethnomycology with Dr Mere Roberts at Auckland University in co-supervising the research of student Rebekah Fuller6 as she explored Maori knowledge of fungi has been a source of ongoing delight and inspiration for Peter.

Seeing things as we are... Resonating all through Peter’s thinking about science itself seems to be an idea that Immanuel Kant put so concisely: “We do not see things as they are, but as we are.”7 So, to conclude our interview, we asked him how he felt about the over-arching place of the Nature of Science in New Zealand’s school science curriculum. He replied, “I missed out in my training on the idea of ‘What is science?’ No one ever actually talked to me about it. It’s only afterwards that I’ve read some of the relevant literature…So when I saw ‘Nature of Science’ I thought ‘Oh, this is good. This is trying to encourage students to ask questions and to evaluate what is likely to be true and what is likely to be just fabrication, and understanding that we are not just dealing in absolute facts here.’ I think that’s really useful.” Talking with Peter was for us, indeed, a heartening experience. For further information contact: mbarker@waikato.ac.nz or: c.haslam@auckland.ac.nz

continued on page 35


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NZASE 129  

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