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Practical magic

Is life just a succession of practical skills?

It appears children are learning the theories behind sciences but not the practical skills to apply them. Despite knowledge of principles adequate to negotiate GCSE exams, they lack the basic abilities to apply them in a laboratory.

Are we only giving children half the tools they need to succeed? Or is it simply a case of providing a foundation for further development as they progress through A-levels and beyond?

What good is a theory without application anyway?

You’re on a plane. The pilots are incapacitated and the stewardess asks “does anyone know how to land this plane?”

Two people raise their hand and explain their backgrounds. One has read the manual ten times and watched numerous instructional videos.
The other has never read the manual, never seen a video but flew a plane once on their only flying lesson.

Who do you go with?

The answer, well my answer, is to go with both!

For thousands of years the combination of theory and application has performed wonders, and admittedly often each has been provided by independent parties.
But, surely a combination of the two, at least to some degree, is the ideal?

A fighter pilot must have a grasp of aerodynamics and the laws of physics, plus the endurance, steady hand and muscle memory gained by repeated practical application to make sure that plane doesn’t fall out of the sky.

A lack of lab time may seem of little consequence if the pupil is passing their exams. But what if they are left uninspired and abandon all science at the earliest opportunity? What if a great mind is taken to another path simply because they weren’t given the reward of seeing science in action?

Time is a limiting factor and exams must be passed. Teachers are placed in an incredibly difficult position daily. Do they use what limited time they have with each class to ensure the theory is ingrained? Or, do they dare use this precious time to showcase the remarkable applications of such understanding?

It is not a choice I would like to make but, if I had to, it would be time to get the Bunsen burners out.


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