I’m a big fan of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) website and I’m hoping that beginning to write this blog will give me the opportunity to keep up to date with what’s happening outside the classroom in the big bad chemical world. There has been a lot of response recently to the RSC research into the public’s opinion to chemistry. I’ve really liked the recent opinion pieces by David Philips and Marc Lorch about this research.
The research has found that public opinion to chemistry was maybe not just as bad as expected but a picture of neutrality was found. The word ‘neutrality’ makes me sad. As teachers we are responsible for positioning chemistry within our pupils lives and an easy place to start is defining what a chemical is. Chemicals are bad, isn’t that right? They pollute, are toxic and of course have you heard of that really bad one known as dihydrogen monoxide? (….water). Marc Lorch mentions the term chemophobia but the actual research actually indicates that 60% of the public actually know that all things are made of chemicals. This got me thinking – Chemistry is not compulsory at GCSE so really as teachers we do not have much time to impress its importance. We need to start selling the periodic table, it’s our world’s Lego box and guess what – everything around us comes from those 118 elements ( let’s debate that number at a later date) and their combinations so if there is so much good and beauty in our world then thank you Chemistry ! What was great in the article was that David said chemists are passionate and we need to embrace a more strategic and contextual approach of public communication – and I think that has to start in the classroom.