Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, Volume 2, Issue 1, Foreword (Jun., 2001)
Science as Story: Science Education by Story
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Science as Story

For some strange reasons we, as science educators, until very recently have forgotten that Story could be a powerful form of education in our own subject of science. Yet behind every advance in science there is a human story. New scientific knowledge is always the outcome of human endeavour, some of it relatively short, but for much of it quite prolonged as the scientists concerned worked away in their laboratories, experiencing disappointments, blockages and triumphs. But during these weeks, months and years, there were still other relationships to sustain, other things to attend to, funds and support to be found, rival groups to watch, etc, etc.. The story of the deciphering of the double helix structure of DNA by Watson and Crick in the 1960s was as exciting as any detective story. When Marie Curie's life story and her struggle to isolate the new element radium was published and then made into a film it inspired a generation of young women in the 1940s to enrol for scientific studies.

I used the word "forgotten" deliberately because I myself have been reminded, through a current research project, of the powerful influence The Harvard Case Histories in Experimental Science had in the 1950s on a number of the pioneers of science education research who I have been interviewing. Inspired by James B Conant, a leader in science and in the university scene in the USA, these Case Histories told the stories of great developments in science like The Rise and Fall of the Caloric Theory and of The Atomic Molecular Theory from the inside, getting the reader to share the mind issues that these scientists were grappling with. Ironically, these Case Histories were produced not for use with science students but for use in undergraduate classes at Harvard University for law and humanities students. They did, however, become models for the physics curriculum project in the 1960s that became known as Harvard Project Physics. Its materials were, I remember, so very humanly different from PSSC Physics that appeared a few years earlier. The latter set the style of a dehumanised, conceptual approach to school physics that, alas, has been so dominant in schools everywhere since that time.


Copyright (C) 2001 HKIEd APFSLT. Volume 2, Issue 1, Foreword (Jun., 2001)