As part of the Future Science Leaders workshop, I have been in touch with a local secondary school about talking to their students about science – specifically, my science, Geography. When the school heard about my interest in crops and food security, they invited me to help some students with their A-level Geography course. There were 4 post-16 students doing an optional module looking at the effectiveness of measures to improve food security and they were looking for a few extra things that would take them from an A to an A*, in terms of content.
It was all a bit last minute, so although I prepared a quick presentation on some of the issues of food security, mostly I just chatted to them. We talked about how climate change has decreased yield over the last 30 years; the spatial differences in how the changes in yield from climate change are distributed; how carbon dioxide fertilisation doesn’t increase yield as much as it was thought it might; deforestation of the amazon for crop land and the paradox that creates; etc. etc. The key issue for the students was how this directly linked to their coursework – if climate change is decreasing crop yield, what counts as the measure which is attempting to improve crop security? My thought is that if climate change is already decreasing crop yield, then any of the current carbon reduction policies (Kyoto, National targets etc.) could justifiably be considered as a measure attempting to increase crop security. As for their success (or lack thereof), that’s a matter for debate.
We also talked about where to find information. I told them about Journals, how to use Google Scholar and how the abstract will usually give them all the key points. We talked about how journals are more current than books and therefore it was important to reference your sources – the newer the research is, the more important it is to reference it, as the reader is less likely to have already seen it. That brought us on to talking about the importance of new information and the teacher recommended reading a quality daily newspaper – I recommended a scan through the rss feed on your phone of the appropriate section of a decent newspaper. That led us to RSS feeds, Google docs, iGoogle, Google alerts – all the things that I use to make it easier to catch up on what is going on in the fields I’m interested in.
It was a nice session for me, chatting to students who were curious and critical of the information that I gave them.