I work in an all-girl’s school and getting more girls into science is of interest to me because science, particularly physics and chemistry, aren’t seen as especially ‘girly’ subjects. In a recent comment by Dame Athene Donald, Professor of Experimental Physics at Cambridge University, she said that toys for little girls were dominated by themes of ‘love and magic,’ which reinforced gender stereotypes (bit.ly/uked15oct20) and led to girls being less likely to pursue careers in science as they were indoctrinated into a particular way of thinking.
This article was originally printed in the October 2015 edition of UKEdMagazine
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Whereas I’m not going to hold Barbie solely responsible for that, I do think Dame Donald has a point. Just how do we get more girls, and indeed boys, into science? They are the future scientists, doctors, researchers and engineers… let’s face it, we need them! I was thinking about how best we can do this and I truly believe that bringing cutting edge technology into the classroom is key.
As kids, how many times have we sat through a boring science lesson where the same ideologies and research were presented year after year? From the same science text book that our older brothers and sisters used also? There was nothing exciting; nothing gripping! I only became interested in science when my mum bought me a science encyclopedia as a child. I was 8 and I sat and read that whole book from cover to cover in my top bunk. Only then did things make sense to me, I could connect concepts and see how science was influencing the real world!
This is what we need more of WITHIN our classrooms. New subject specifications have tried to keep up with the ever-changing science world; with nanotechnology for example. But science moves so fast that new technologies are being developed faster than new editions of textbooks can come out. This is where teachers need to be a bit more proactive. Inspire your pupils by allowing them to see what science is doing for us now.
One topic of interest for me lately has been 3D printing. It seems like science fiction, but it is science fact now, and becoming more and more commonplace. Bringing new and exciting technological breakthroughs into the classroom is essential to inspiring the future scientists and engineers of this world.
3D printing is exciting! There are many applications of 3D printing which span across the curriculum, from engineering and maths, to history, science and ethics. The latter of these is one area of research and development I will be sharing with my pupils in their lessons on cells and tissues, for example.
So what is 3D printing and how does it work? 3D printing is pretty much as you’d expect, producing a 3D model of whatever has been ‘printed’ out of different materials, using computer programming technology. So far they have 3D printed many things, ranging from model houses, to real houses, to a injured toucan’s beak which had been mutilated.
You can even 3D print a ‘Selfie’ of yourself! How cool is that? You can even create an action hero of yourself. Cubify’s 3DMe (cubify.com/store/_3dme) got plenty of attention at the Consumer Electronics Show last year for its 3D-printed figurines in various styles.
In August this year, a 6 year old boy suffering from a congenital form of brittle bone disease in China was able to stand again after doctors used 3D printed models of his bones to accurately see where best to cut into and fix, minimising damage and pain (bit.ly/uked15oct21). Similar things have been done with hearts, to see if and how it would be possible to mend valve. When you compare this to how surgeons used to diagnose and operate on patients 100 years ago, it’s amazing how far we have come.
The future of 3D printing is exciting. We are one step closer to printing whole human organs now, which would of course get rid of the organ donor demand, painful waiting lists and issues with matching tissue types. It would be possible to 3D print a whole organ using the recipient’s own cells and DNA! Meaning that heart, lung, or any major organ transplant will become routine and relatively quick procedures. This is one of many …
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Aaliya Khan is a science teacher at St Anne’s Catholic School for Girls, after graduating from Imperial College London, she embarked into a teaching career. She loves bringing fresh ideas into the classroom and has presented at #TMEnfield. @Miss_Khan868 follow on Twitter.