A love for science from a young age needs to be inspired by parents and dedicated teachers who engage with children rather than bombard them with equations and abstract theories. Science guru Anthony Galea tells Simonne Pace that science is simply about the stuff around us
Every year, Anthony Galea, a science lecturer at the University of Malta, delivers his Aerodynamics lecture at the Air Malta hangar, where science students learn about the various parts of an airplane while walking around an actual aircraft.
This is not his only science lesson outside the lecture room.
“Where is it best to explain the science of sea if not at the Maltese coastline? Or the science of beer, wine, coffee and tea if not at the bar? Following the curriculum is necessary, but engaging your audience is fundamental,” says Galea, who is known for veering from traditional teaching methods by turning lectures into mini-science shows in order to explain complex theories using exciting props.
The lecturer, who is passionate about science, strives to extend it beyond the classroom, engaging different audiences through captivating talks.
He has taken science to cafes, schools, conferences, national festivals, the Natural History Museum in London, and even to a motorcycle showroom!
Last year he participated in FameLab International and won the JCI national, international and world public speaking championships in Malta, Latvia and India respectively.
To this young scientist – who remembers watching science shows and reading books on how to carry out home experiments as a young boy – “science is simply about the stuff around us, from the tiniest atom to the biggest galaxy”.
Galea has always been fascinated by the science of everything around him, such as how clouds form and where sea waves come from; what a volcano is and what generates winds; what is the temperature of the sun; how we keep our balance on a moving bicycle; what makes diamonds so strong or how we get wine from grapes. “These are all marvels of everyday life,” Galea says.
A scientist is like a kid who never grows up and keeps asking many questions
He adds: “We are all born scientists, curiously asking the hows, whats and whys of things when we are young. This is why we should answer kids’ questions with facts, simplifying science and moving away from the idea that science subjects such as mathematics and chemistry are difficult and incomprehensible. Even cooking in the kitchen can be one big science experiment.”
In Galea’s secondary school days, it was “a pot of gold to understand the physics of rainbows beyond the laws of light”. Curiosity about how things work incubated his research and scientific understanding. Studying maths and physics at an advanced level intensified these curiosities.
“A love for science from a young age needs to be inspired by parents and dedicated teachers who engage kids in science rather than bombard them with equations, abstract theories and complex examples. I feel that a scientist is like a kid who never grows up and keeps asking many questions,” he says.
“Scientific examples need to be simple and relevant to kids. Geosciences are particularly interesting because they are about the science of rocks, oceans, the atmosphere – basically our home planet.”
The University offers various science options as part of the BSc course. Apart from the existing departments within the Faculty of Science, the Department of Geosciences has also been set up, providing more possibilities to prospective students.
“Promoting science at schools is crucial,” says Galea, who is often invited to give science shows both at primary and secondary schools. The response from young students is impressive. However, I think students lack the fun of science experiences, of being curious, of understanding topics outside the curriculum but which impact our daily life. Such shows rekindle the curiosity nerve.”
Science also interacts well with other academic subjects at school.
“Science and history are an excellent coupling example. Wars and historic episodes are based on technological advancements. Fast-moving aeroplanes in the 1930s would not have been possible without Bernoulli’s Principle, named after Daniel Bernoulli who published it in his book Hydrodynamica in 1738. Downloading such articles would also not have been possible without the science of fibre optics and light. Science complements other school subjects.”
Is science taught properly in our schools in preparation for tertiary education?
“More can be done to promote science at school and to engage students in science. Kids love stories, as do adults – and the best way to explain science is through everyday examples and by keeping it simple. I believe that using props during a lesson keeps students focused and possible helps them grasp the more complex science.”
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