Science is a big deal for our Biosphere, since without local and applied scientific research on how our world works here, we won't have the essential tools that we need to be able to manage our environment and promote a positive and productive relationship of us people with it. Beyond the academic and technical work that takes place in our local universities and other scientific institutions, there's a real need to engage 'normal' people (not just scientific 'nerds'!) with the nature of the world around us so that we all have an understanding and a stake in it. Enter the annual Brighton Science festival, now in its tenth year.. Brighton Science Festival is the best way to discover where we came from, deal with where we are and debate where we might go in the future. Yes, I know the shudder of terror that some people feel at the mere mention of the word ‘science’, but there is every reason to believe that can turn into a tremor of excitement. There are some extraordinary and inspiring science communicators out there, and we search all the festivals and publishers in Britain to bring the best to Brighton. The festival is for all ages, but the ones we are particularly doing this for are 12-14 year-olds. When they arrive in secondary school from primary school they are fired up with enthusiasm for science. Within two years they hate it. Why? The government has recognised the problem and fiddled with the school curriculum, trying to make it more user-friendly, but that hasn’t worked. There are two elements missing, which even the most energetic teachers (and I have met a lot of very, very keen teachers out there) have difficulty coping with:
- There is no spirit of discovery. Young people love to explore, experiment and create. They don’t mind making mistakes along the way. But the curriculum doesn’t leave time for mistakes. They have to get the right version in their books straight away, ready to move on to the next topic. There is no room for the spirit of discovery.
- Their parents don’t join in. Schools often have sports days, when all the parents come along. They have school plays; all the parents come along. When they have science days the school is deserted.