A couple of years ago I made a bunch of school resources for teachers with the organisation NESTA and a group of teachers. Since I mentioned them in the book a couple of people have asked for them, so here they are:
I think they’re good fun, and informative, but there aren’t enough of them, and so if any teachers out there wanted to get together and collaborate on making some more, and bung them up for free online, I’d be very enthusiastic about that.
My reasoning is as follows:
1. Torpedoing bad ideas is the perfect way to teach good science because science is, after all, about critically appraising the evidence for a given claim.
2. There is a huge appetite for evidence based medicine: half of all science coverage in the media is medical, much of that is about what will kill or cure you (see also the Daily Mail’s project of dividing all the inanimate objects in the world into what causes or cures cancer), People are clearly fascinated by this stuff, and yet we are completely ignorant of the basics.
3. People often claim that creationism is really useful in schools, because it is a good way to teach about “controversy in science”. It is in fact a terrible example: disentangling the claims of the ID movement in particular requires a vast amount of highly technical and marginally useful detail, and the evidence for evolution requires a fair amount of effort too, when you get down to it. Creationism makes for a very unclean teaching case, and the explanations around it require a large amount of specialist knowledge that would not be generally useful.
4. Everybody is interested in MMR and the merits of fish oil pills or homeopathy, and more importantly, these are perfect opportunities to teach cleanly and clearly not just about the answers from science, but the process, the mechanics of how we can find out if something is good for you, or bad for you.
5. It is also a great opportunity to laugh at people like TV nutritionist Gillian McKeith, vitamin pill entrepreneur Patrick Holford, along with various other millionaires and, more importantly, national newspapers, all of whom pose as authority figures.
I’ve had quite a few emails from people who are using stories from the column or the book already in lessons, do please post below if you’ve any useful experiences of trying them out, pointers, or would like to get something a bit more organised together; pub or wiki is fine, and if there is a group like NESTA who want to coordinate and help get the stuff out for free under a creative commons license then all the better. Note to collaborators: I am overcommitted and unable to organise things, but willing / able / very fast working once stuck in.
Otherwise the classes above are there for the taking, here is an old story about a fun classroom activity where a teacher took on a big corporation over dodgy science and won, here are a few scatty notes (which, er, someone should update soon) on badscience activism, here is a good recent media story with links to the originals, and here is a website and book full of raw material for art.