Science Education, Scientific Literacy and Curriculum Design

A Scientist and a Dancer Met in a Classroom…

January 02, 2019

By Poh Tan

I began my doctoral research journey with an objective to find an “optimal” scientific curriculum to develop scientific inquiry, and as I approach the end of my research, I realize and understand my place as a scientist and a science educator has always been about creating and “seeing” meaningful relationships with what I was studying. These relational connections through emotions and feelings play pivotal roles in maintaining creativity and imagination in science; characteristics often left behind or not prioritize. It was through dance that I finally “felt” what science is about. To dance about how the oceans are connected to the sky beyond just moving my arms in a precise technical way, and instead to feel the ocean with my body and the sun with my arms transformed how I look at the relationship between different systems on our planet.

My research explores why it is necessary and pertinent to teach science through an objective AND subjective lens, to nurture and cultivate scientific dispositions of listening, observing, theorizing, and hypothesizing from a place of emotion. My research adopts a self-study research methodology approach, where I seek to further understand my practice and identity as a science educator when teaching science to young children.

I am excited to share that my academic journey has culminated in two self-published children’s books, which I co-authored with my eldest son, Khafri. The two books: My name is Poh. I am a Mummy and a Scientist, and Am I a Scientist? were written from the distillation of my understandings about the importance of developing scientifically literate children. The book, Am I a Scientist?, introduces the child to different types of scientists who may not fit the stereotypical mould of what a scientist should look like and where they should be working (i.e. lab coat and a lab).  The book ends with a surprise for the child and affirms that it is the dispositions of a scientist, rather than a set of skills that determine if one is scientifically literate.

As I continue this “artful scientific” journey to further understand myself as a science educator, I am excited to further explore how this PhD will open my mind towards different ways of relating to the world.

I want to acknowledge and thank many Faculty members who supported me through patience, understanding and providing a space for me to fully experience my “artful self” and colleagues and acquaintances who have become friends and mentors for their encouragement. 


Poh Tan is a graduate student at the Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University. She holds a PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of British Columbia. She is currently pursuing her second PhD in science education with a focus on scientific literacy and curriculum design. She has self published two children’s books co-authored with her son, Khafri: My name is Poh. I am a Mummy and a Scientist, and Am I a Scientist?