How important is it that we are educating citizens to be scientifically literate? Very important.
As well as teaching the curriculum, I think we have an obligation as science teachers to be developing students' ability to think critically about scientific information they are exposed to in the media. Part of this is making students enthusiastic about science and get them to see it as relevant to their lives.
Part of our approach to achieving this at Crusoe has been to invite real-life scientists to give feedback, advice and encouragement to students when they report the results of their self-designed experiments. It is a difficult job sometimes, mediating between students who can feel intensely intimidated by interacting with someone "out there" in the real world, a curriculum that is often rigid when it comes to topics taught, and scientists who are passionate about their field of expertise, but struggle to see how their expertise is relevant to a Year 8 Science student.
I encourage our Virtual Scientists to provide more broad-based feedback, commenting on things like scientific method and effective communication of scientific results. But sometimes, a scientist's field of expertise can creep in in unexpected ways. For example, while discussing the investigations of our Year 8 students into rusting, one of our Virtual Scientist stars, Dr Melanie Thomson, mentioned how she researches microbes that actually eat rust!
It's another reason I like having the input of other people into my class - they bring things our learning community I, quite simply, can't. And if having an authentic audience inspires a handful of my students to become scientifically literate, it is a worthwhile endeavour.