Peter.D.Riley

International bestselling award-winning author Facebook Twitter

Taking science education across the world

Our future depends on exploring all the frontiers of science, on innovative technologies based on these explorations and on the development of scientific literacy in all peoples through science education.

What are your memories of science at high school?

“What is the first thing you remember when you think of science at high school?”

I asked this question of about thirty people ranging in age from 20 to 97 years old. Why did I ask the question? Having spent all my working life either teaching or writing about science I wondered what memories people took away from school laboratories from all the experiences and information they received there.

I thought it might be interesting for science teachers down the ages to see what was a lasting memory of their science lessons. Here is the list starting with the most frequent response but most of the others were only mentioned once.

Bunsen Burner

Bunsen burner.
All the different sorts of apparatus.
The cabinets full of different apparatus.
Gas taps.
Making hydrogen pop and oxygen rekindle a glowing splint.
The smell of rotten eggs.
Seeing how a battery as made and then making one at home using vinegar.
Heart dissection.
Goggles.
Litmus paper.
Eye dissection.
Using disclosing tablets to stain plaque on your teeth.
The word Amoeba.
Magdeburg hemispheres to demonstrate air pressure.
All the experiments.
A Wimshurst machine – an electrostatic generator.
A tape recorder (from a 1950’s student).
The Van de Graaff generator.
Magnesium ribbon burning (the early 2000 student cried wow as she remembered it flaring up).
The word mnemonic for the elements in the second period of the periodic table – Little Bertha Bought Cotton Nightgowns Off Fair Nell. The elements are lithium, beryllium, boron, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, fluorine, neon.

But what did the 97 year old say who was a student in the nineteen thirties? In a firm voice he said “Water is H2O!”

And what of my lasting memory of High School science – the separation of sand and salt!

If you have a memory you would like to share, send it to me at my e mail address peter@peterdriley.com and I will add it to the list.



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