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Teachers Fear Biology Fieldwork is Heading for Extinction

Originally published 17 October 2002

Biology fieldwork could be heading for extinction says a report to be published on Friday 18th October by the Field Studies Council and the British Ecological Society. This loss of opportunity will rob young people of the personal benefits of out of school experiences, as well as the educational value of such trips.

Dr Susan Barker, Lecturer at the University of Warwick, and co-author of the report, said: "It is essential we recognise that there is life beyond the test tube. Practical experience and observations in the field are essential for achieving a ‘whole-biology’ education. It is important that we provide the training and support to enable teachers to deliver this experience."

The report ‘Teaching biology outside the classroom: is it heading for extinction?’ reveals that biology fieldwork is rapidly declining in our schools, despite the clear educational and personal development strengths it offers. This is happening at a time when there is increasing demand for students with the skills and confidence to practise outdoor biology, and to be aware of their impacts on the world around them – a fundamental requirement if the ‘sustainability‘ targets set by the recent Earth Summit and the UK government are to be met.

The authors recommend that urgent action must be taken and that the science curriculum needs to change so that fieldwork becomes a requirement, rather than an option. Endorsing the report Professor Lord May of Oxford, President of the Royal Society, commented: "Our young people are being let down if their science education does not include a field experience. The stark message of this report must be taken very seriously."

To stop the decline in biology fieldwork the report recommends that a recognised professional body needs to become a vocal advocate for fieldwork. Dr Stephen Tilling, Director of Communications at the Field Studies Council, and co-author of the report, commented: "This is something we cannot afford to ignore any more. We need to act now to save biology fieldwork and make sure that the soul of biology – the science of life – is not lost to many children and students."

Professor John Grace FRSE, President of the British Ecological Society and Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Edinburgh, stated: "Whilst fieldwork at university is an essential part of an environmental scientist’s training, fieldwork at school will be their inspiration".

The report also indicates that teachers, including trainees, need much more support in developing the skills, confidence and commitment to teach outdoor biology.

For further information please contact:

Dr Susan Barker
Institute of Education
University of Warwick
Tel: 02476 523897
Mobile: 07779 716348

Jennifer Murray
Assistant Press Officer
University of Warwick
Tel: 02476 574255
Mobile: 07876 217740