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Monthly Archives: January 2013

The National Curriculum is Evolving

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One of the main reasons I first sat down and started writing “Little Changes” was because I felt the national curriculum did not provide a good foundation at an early enough age, in regards to teaching evolution. It tended to focus on adaptation as a rather static process, “fish have fins to swim, birds have wings to fly, hence fish live in the sea and birds fly in the sky”. I’m not saying this is how all teachers chose to teach the topic – I’m sure there were fantastic efforts to try and introduce evolution with more life and excitement. But the fact is it was not expected or even encouraged, it is only those teachers that had a personal interest or that were prepared to go above and beyond their call of duty that would have provided children with this knowledge. And for you courageous few, I thank you.

However, in June 2012 a draft of the updated national curriculum was released, and I was thrilled to see evolution on the agenda. Previously, pupils at key stage 2 (between 7 and 11 years) were expected to know “about the different plants and animals found in different habitats” and “how animals and plants in two different habitats are suited to their environment”. The subject was then abandoned until year 10 (14-15 years), which was the first stage at which evolution was explicitly discussed. The new standards state that in year 4 (8-9 years old) pupils are expected to understand the basics of inheritance – without necessarily understanding genes and chromosomes – and the key concepts of adaptation through learning the evolutionary history of our hominid ancestors over millions of years. “Hoorah!” Even better, this knowledge is built on in years 5 and 6 when with the introduction of variation, and evidence supporting evolution from the fossil records.

I was particularly impressed with the use of human evolution as an example of gradual change over time, because I would imagine for some religious parents this is one of the areas of evolution that they are very reluctant to accept. However, evidence doesn’t lie – and I think the national curriculum has taken a very positive step forward in debunking the false controversy which still surrounds evolution today. Education should not be censored for fear of offending the uninformed few. Children should be offered all the facts – and the choice as to whether or not to accept them should be their decision, not ours.

Well done Britain, I’m proud of you.

You can see the draft of the national curriculum for key stages 1 and 2 here: http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/pdf/d/draft%20national%20curriculum%20for%20science%20key%20stages%201%202.pdf

And I’m sure this change was in no small part due to some hard campaigning from the British Humanist Association (BHA), check out their campaign here: http://evolutionnotcreationism.org.uk/

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2013 in Evolution

 

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“I thought tweeting was for birds!”

"I'm with @stupid"The last week was one of great excitement and mild panic. Just a few little words on PZ Myers’s blog and twitter account, “We need a lot more of these. Check out Little Changes by Tiffany Taylor”, was enough to convince 3000 people to visit my Little Changes website. For those of you who are new to my blog, “Little Changes” is a children’s book which introduces the concepts of evolution to a young audience, without the jargon.

This, while obviously incredibly exciting, made me realise how completely unprepared and inept I was. My brother-in-law kindly pointed out there was a bit of a discussion going on via twitter on my aforementioned book – and that I needed to sort myself out and get on it! The trouble was, I knew about as much on how to use twitter as I did about the latest One Direction “hit”. A revelation came with the discovery of the “Search” and “@Connect” buttons (yes I have a PhD, and yes I really was that slow on the uptake). And with a little revamp of my outdated profile I think I can safely say, “My name is Tiffany, and I’m a twitterholic (but I still have no idea what the latest One Direction hit is).”

Thanks to those who shared, and who still share. The “Little Changes” project is itself evolving, into something which I hope will help young children question the why the world they live in, is the way it is. There are exciting things on the horizon for Little Changes, so watch this space!

On that note, the rinkdinks get a mention on this week’s “Naked Scientists” genetics podcast (between time 21:12 and 24:01, but make sure you give the whole thing a listen as there’s some fascinating stuff on there like “how genes might jump between snakes and cows”?!) A big thank you to Kat Arney for her superb interviewing and editing skills – I’m sure I didn’t sound that coherent at the time.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Evolution

 

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