Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Science - Is the End Nigh?: Resources

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Science - Is the End Nigh?: Resources

Article excerpt

Apocalyptic predictions are a great starting point for lessons.

Among the certainties for 2012 are that London will host the Olympic Games and that Britain's weather will disappoint. Over the past few months, however, there has been growing talk of the world ending this year. The saga surrounds a supposed prediction made by the ancient Mayan civilisation.

Could there be any truth to the prediction? And how can we use them in a science class? It is certainly a topic that captures the imaginations of young people and provokes scientific debate.

You could get your pupils to make their own super-volcano from papier mache and then react vinegar with baking soda and some red food colouring to represent a volcanic eruption (one of the prophesies). Or you could look at climate change: research could focus on how human activities, as well as natural events, can have a big impact on the planet.

Alternatively, pupils could plan a "doomsday" survival kit, which could be used in response to a large-scale disaster. Various scenarios could be considered, such as: world oil supplies being significantly disrupted; large swathes of food crops being destroyed; mass casualties occurring in one place; and telephone lines and other forms of communication being jammed.

There is also an opportunity to introduce the differences between facts, predictions and theory. Pupils should be encouraged to keep an open mind about questions that are difficult to answer with any certainty.

During the past decade, regions across the globe have endured devastating earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and flooding. …

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