Appliance of science

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 May, 2012, 12:00am


It is often said that a scientist is not the person who gives the right answers, but the one who asks the right questions. In light of this view, it is little surprise that many regard the understanding of science and scientific methods as vital components of the innovative thinking process.

Walter Isaacson, in his recent book on late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, highlighted the importance of science education, specifically the benefits of pairing that knowledge with humanities.

'The creativity that can occur when a feel for both the humanities and sciences combine in one strong personality type was the topic that most interested me in my biographies of Franklin and Einstein,' Isaacson wrote. 'I believe it will be a key to creating innovative economies in the 21st century.'

Principal Denise Jarrett at Anfield International Kindergarten has a similarly high regard for science, noting that 'it is a way to teach innovation and lateral thinking'.

'For students, each inquiry is a journey into the unknown where a skilful balance of teaching key facts and concepts, exploration, hypothesising, prediction, investigating and concluding, gives the child a spring board into innovative, lateral thinking,' Jarrett says.

English Schools Foundation's (ESF) primary teaching and learning adviser, Rebecca Clements, also points to a link between innovation and science, which she says is among the best subjects to spur creative thinking abilities in children. Science, Clements explains, promotes experimentation and encourages curiosity and ingenuity, enabling students to develop an understanding of the world.

'Students should be provided with opportunities to wonder and explore so that they can develop their capacity to think creatively and to see the creativity embedded in the world around them,' adds Clements.

Challenges of creativity, she continues, are embedded in all areas of the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme curriculum. 'For example, students need to think creatively about how to solve problems in mathematics, look for innovative ways to test a hypothesis in our science-based units, and creatively explore alternative perspectives in language,' she says.

At the ESF's secondary schools division, meanwhile, Island School vice-principal Trudy Lant notes that one of the most important aspects of science education is what it teaches children about failure. 'The problem is that in education, we are all focused on measurable success and academic achievement. Yet we all know that the greatest innovators continually fail as they move towards a successful product, idea or scientific theory,' she says.

Lant points to a seeming overemphasis on standard assessment in school systems and a distinct lack of a risk-taking or an innovative culture.

'Students fear mistakes, and oftentimes, tasks are too closed and narrowly-focused for them to explore, to find their own passion, or to find new ways of looking at things,' she explains. 'We have to tool students up with ways to be creative and ignore the myth that you are either born creative or not.'