It’s All in The Words


John Drake

A Window

When I was in Year 7, first year of high school in NSW Australia, a teacher who was also the School Principal decided to give us a taste of Science and English. We were about twelve or thirteen. He said he was going to define ‘window’ in scientific terms. I can never forget his definition. I love both Science and English.

He said: “A window is an orifice in an edifice for the purposes of diurnal illumination and nocturnal ventilation.”

I am not sure how the other pupils reacted but I was impressed with this definition. An ‘orifice’ is a hole and a ‘edifice’ is a building. Certainly a window is a hole in a building. There may be many.

It has two purposes. The first purpose is for ‘diurnal illumination’, that means daily light or light during the day and a window allows light into a building during the day.

The second purpose is for ‘nocturnal ventilation’ that means nightly air or air to flow from the outside to the inside of the building and vice versa during the night. Often, people leave windows open during the night for ventilation. This was a fine definition, I thought.

Science and English

Of course, there was more than one lesson the teacher had imparted here. He had explained a definition of something scientific in English. But he had also implied that anyone relating anything about science should be able to explain it clearly in English, in writing and in speech. The same applies to Mathematics. Schooling should involve the teaching of English within science and within Mathematics, as well as being a subject in its own right.

It is fine knowing something, but if you cannot explain it clearly to others, it virtually remains a secret.

Just consider the topic of climate change. What is it? What is climate?

Saying in speech or writing that we are in a time of climate change without being able to explain what it is and why it is occurring, has no impact. It is just a slogan. There is therefore a need during the study of Science at school, to teach English within Science,  so future citizens are meaningfully able to debate such issues.

My Experience

I completed Post Graduate Teaching but taught only in practicums (teaching practices). There were four in all. I became disillusioned that English was not integrated with Science. As a result, I never taught in schools after completing my teaching degree, although this is not the only reason.

On the other hand, I completed a temporary contract at TAFE, (Technical and Further Education College), where I taught integrated English and mathematics for Trade students, which I found very satisfying.

I still vividly remember the value of the scientific definition of a window expressed clearly in English, when I was about thirteen. It could equally have been a clear English explanation of something mathematical.

The integration of English within Science and Mathematics at school is essential for people to have meaningful debates throughout their lives. This is so, for themselves and for society as a whole. You only have to consider the critical nature of debates on climate change as a prime example of this need.


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