1. Science is relevant to everything.
Science can be applied to all things. An early example is green paint in the Victorian era contained arsenic. Arsenic is highly poisonous and the paints emitted fumes. A paper titled ‘How Green is My Valance’ (P. W. J. Bartrip, The English Historical Review, 1994) detailed how as early as 1891 house-wives were falling in and out of consciousness because of the elements potency! William Morris is historically partly to blame for the furore caused as his wall-papers pushed forth the used of arsenic paint and it was he who had familial ties with the arsenic ore mining industry so green was a big pigment in wall-paper manufacture.
Veclcro was discovered in 1943 by inventor George de Mestral who found burrs attached to his dog after hiking. Who’d have thought the biological structure of a burr could be so applicable to us today? It doesn’t stop there either!
2. Art enables people to make sense of a ‘question’ i.e. what do ‘elements’ look like?
Phil Kirkland who rose to fame during the 1970’s is famed for his interpretation of what science means. His art-work was frequently used for CRM’s Biology Today textbook covers.
A more recent example of art interpreting science is Damian Hirst’s Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind 1989 (A shark in formaldehyde), one of his most famous art-works. His art combined scientific techniques with the human ability to question the meaning of life.
3. Music can be highly immersive.
Putting music in a teaching space whether it is a stage, school hall, the street or an exhibition space can do a lot to grab attention. The Victoria and Albert museums ‘From Club to Catwalk’ (2013) exhibition does precisely that. By using various 1980’s club tracks it ‘pulls you in’ and almost sends you back to the era, its expectations and aspirations. Musicians even incorporate historical events. The band Flight Facilities used news reel voice clips (Richard Nixon’s resignation and Falklands war) combined with music over the decades i.e. 1972-1982 to illustrate the issues and the people which defined that decade.
4. Museums are social connectors.
Museums hold objects from our past and our future. The Greenwich mean-line is one of the largest examples of this. It is the 0° of astronomical observation in the world and therefore the ‘prime-meridian of the world’ here ‘standard time’ is decided and The Royal Observatory is a true astronomical example of a museum as a connector. We all rely on it and the abilities we now have to transcend speed and time through modes of transport such as flight are phenomenal.
5. Performance literally brings science to life.
Have you heard at any point within a Shakespearian play the discussion of myth or faerys? These words of wisdom were usually accompanied with ‘[by] nature’ or ‘everything is just as it is’ (Hamlet). If so you are listening to 16th century science at work. So stand proud people, on top of those chairs or tables (if you are adventurous). Make play at theatre and learn along the way!
6. Research does not have to be ‘static’.
If you want to find out about anything someone in a museum will have an answer. They will know scientists who are looking for answers to big questions. Send an email, go in and chat. They are the friendliest people on earth. Ultimately you will be able to answer your big questions through their knowledge, archives and understanding.
The Rotunda museum in Scarborough is intrinsically tied to this methodology. William Smith is the original ‘father of English geology’ he helped create the wonderful 19th century building that is the Rotunda. Within you see the results of his research and exhibitions of work relating to those who were inspired by his legacy.
7. Objects help explain scientific development.
Don’t stand there with nothing! If you hold a compass you can describe the discovery of magnetization to the advent of navigation. The Chinese invented the ‘loadstone needle compass’ which was in use from AD 20-100. How awe inspiring is that? All that power in one now small object!
8. Creativity can increase a sense of ‘ownership’ of a subject.
Getting ‘stuck in’ by standing ankle deep in boggy water in a field can help both understanding and knowledge development. At first hand you learn science through what you can see. ‘High water?’, ‘let’s measure it!’. Now you start to answer why water levels could change.
Experimentation, the back-bone of demonstrable science can be engaging. You can do it with sugar cubes, blue food colouring! How you ask? What does it show? If you build a wall of sugar cubes and put a few pipette drops of food colouring on the top layer you are illustrating the diffusion of rainfall through soil! It is fun and inexpensive too!
Dress up! Wearing clothes from another era is as much a talking point as any other. From there you can describe how ideals and social parameters effected scientific development. Did you know that Christablle Pankhurst was a qualified lawyer with an LLB? Yet she and other professional women such as scientists were unable to practice until well into the early 20th century.
To Conclude: Science is an interesting subject. Textbooks don’t do it justice. How do you make science lift off the page? Throw in some theatre, art, noise and a space and you’ve got it!