Physics is often thought as a difficult, elitist subject, which bears little relevance to day-to-day life, and if it does, it is too complicated to understand. A subject loaded with equations and laws, stereotypically taught by white-haired old men with bushy beards and elbow patches. Ironic really, since in my fifteen years of teaching I have worked with some amazing female (and male) Physics teachers, all incredibly inspiring and none of them sporting a bushy beard or elbow patches! So why does this reputation persist?
This frustrating question kept getting in the way of a long overdue catch up between the two of us at the end of last year. Despite having six years of busy life, travel and old university stories to dissect and gossip over, our discussions kept returning to our desire to make Physics and the rest of Science more accessible and meaningful to our students.
During our undergraduate course, we had participated on many fieldwork trips, thoroughly enjoying the opportunities to apply what we had learnt in lectures in real-time science. Digging holes in the ground for explosives to set off seismic waves, studying layers of rock to determine superposition, identifying our locations using GPS hand in hand with good, old fashioned map and compass skills. And most of the time, in the pouring rain or scorching sun! In fact, pretty much most of our enduring and fondest memories of our degree course were made up from those field trips. So it seemed perfectly logical to return to our outdoor roots and devise a personal and professional challenge that involved raising awareness of Science and Physics within some of the beautiful wild places of our country.
Our intention is to spend time collecting information on how the Science curriculum can be brought to life in these special places, during and between our runs. We will be working with representatives from the National Parks to gain important local insight and knowledge in order to meaningfully measure and report on scientific phenomena that we will encounter along the way. We will then write blogposts to educate, inform and inspire others during the Challenge, with a longer term goal of developing STEM related educational resources for our students, based on what we have learnt and experienced.
Our choice of using the National Parks as the geographical areas in which to focus our exploration reflects our additional concerns that many school students have little or infrequent access to the wonderful outdoors around them, missing out on both health benefits and learning opportunities. We are both passionate about delivering quality learning outside the classroom and keen to highlight any ongoing projects within the National Parks, which have strong scientific links.