Science Ireland, originally established as the True Physics Project in 2001, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. The project was established to promote the physics curriculum, and in so doing, assist schools in their bid to retain students of the subject.
Established by an ‘Ant and Dec’ of a different variety (Donegal man Anthony Caldwell and Declan Holmes of Newport, County Mayo ), Science Ireland originally created physics shows and online courses as a means of increasing Leaving Certificate interest in the subject. Changing tack in 2007, the organisation began tailoring services towards primary school students, and they were pleasantly surprised by the outcome. “We discovered that the shows were extremely popular and this resulted in a new direction for us. We rebranded as Science Ireland as this was a more appropriate name for our new audience,” explained Declan Holmes.
This new direction worked well for Science Ireland, which has performed shows to 40,000 students in some 500 schools around the country. Offering five different types of show (physics, weather, rocket, electricity, magnetism and nanotechnology ), Science Ireland has been delighted to note a marked increase in physics study in schools which they have regularly attended.
In addition to the shows, Science Ireland also developed a five day in-service course on the subject of ‘Activities in the Science Curriculum’, for teacher training at primary level. In 2009, the course was redeveloped as an online course with more than 120 experiments.
While the primary school focus of Science Ireland is extremely successful, their initial aim has not been forgotten, says Caldwell. “We’d set out to develop an online course in physics – and I’m pleased to say that several modules of both Junior and Leaving Certificate have been developed and are available on www.physics.ie ” Caldwell is currently conducting research at Queens University Belfast using the modules to examine student attitudes to physics online.
Regulars on Irish TV, Caldwell and Holmes have been featured most recently on the Sattitude programme [rocket launching] and on ICE [creating lightning]. In 2005, they won the Innovation in Business Award at the Mayo Business Awards for their innovative approach to science education.
If you would like more information on Science Ireland, the upcoming anniversary events, or other upcoming workshops and shows, visit www.scienceireland.ie