A fantastic challenge

Hi all, I’m sure you’re more than ready for the holidays, but before we go, I wanted to share an opportunity for you Biology teachers and your students… Amanda Hardy, Schools and Colleges Officer at the Society of Biology and a former science teacher, wrote to me: 

As a teacher I was very aware that pupils were in danger of seeing science as something to be learnt, rather than a subject to experience, question and look for answers to those questions. The idea of scientific discovery sometimes seems remote from the classroom experience and pupils may not realise that one day they could be running experiments which nobody has tried before. Practical lessons allow some exploration and the chance to test ideas, but it is impossible to dedicate enough time to them and they still normally involve following an instruction sheet.

Despite the inevitable constraints, many teachers are able to inspire students beyond learning facts, and in my role at the Society of Biology I hope to give teachers this opportunity via a number of our activities and resources for students individually and in the classroom.

The British Biology Olympiad is designed to allow sixth formers to expand their knowledge and talents, and to be rewarded and publicly recognised by the award of medals, certificates and prizes. The first round is multiple choice and winners from this are invited to an Award Ceremony at the Royal Society in London. Medals are awarded based on Round One, and students winning a gold medal are invited to take part in Round Two, from which finalists are selected to compete at the British Biology Olympiad final. The British final  at the University of Reading includes  practical assessments and an additional written paper.  Four of the UK finalists will go forward to the International Biology Olympiad final in Switzerland. The competition is growing each year, and attracts thousands of entries. I attended the 2012 UK finals at the University of Birmingham, at which it was inspiring to see the way the young people applied themselves to the challenges. Their attitudes were exactly what the competition was designed to foster.

For younger pupils (Year 9/Year 10 in England and Wales, Year 10/Year 11 in Northern Ireland and S2/S3 in Scotland), Biology Challenge is taken online in schools. It is designed to be challenging and interesting, stimulating curiosity beyond the biology curriculum. Although most people will never work as a scientist, my aim is to increase the number of young people who leave school feeling some ‘ownership’ of science, knowing that they are qualified to think critically about the scientific evidence they encounter during their everyday lives. I hope the competitions will reveal just how interesting, varied and exciting biology can be.

I would be really interested to hear from teachers who feel they have achieved these aims in different ways, and from any teachers who are keen to get involved in our competitions.  You can find out more at our updated competition’s website: http://ukbiologycompetitions.org/

So there you have it. A chance to develop your students’ skills, passion for science, and a potential trip to Switzerland! Something to consider over the holidays perhaps…

I will leave you with this picture: super cute cell ornaments! Maybe a creative way to help your students engage with cell biology? You could try making some in class – use felt sheets and hot glue guns if you dont fancy sewing.

Celling fast: tree ornaments!

Celling fast: tree ornaments!

Have a brilliant time everyone, and maybe see some of you at the ASE conference in January -come say hello to us on the Science Museum stand.

Take care

m

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