How old are fairy tales?


How old are Fairy Stories?
And why do zebras have stripes? These and many other questions are discussed by the Royal Society and published in their Open Science series. And you might be surprised by some of the ways these questions are being discussed.
The Royal Society is nearly four hundred year old. It started in 1660, and it calls itself the ‘pre eminent academy ( or institute ) for scientists around the world. Newton, Darwin and Einstein were all members. Stephen Hawking is now. So when they say something you can believe it’s going to be true. Or can you?
The society members keep busy. Their work includes education, policy development, holding scientific meetings, setting up exhibitions and publishing articles and journals. They’ve looked at environmental issues, cybersecurity, education and how to survive not just bad but extreme weather. ( This includes floods, drought and heatwaves.) They’ve also looked at chemical and illegal warfare and their findings are used in international diplomacy and conferences. They’ll look at what they call ‘machine learning’ which to you and me is computer assisted learning or ICT, and the implications for science of Britain leaving the EU; and the future of the BBC and the NHS. In fact they and their website are a veritable treasure trove of ideas, reports, research and discussions.
But they’re also concerned with the recruitment and training of scientists, including encouraging young people to get involved. They study the extent to which women and people from different backgrounds manage careers in science. They hope to maximise ‘innovation and creativity in science for the benefit of humanity’. An admirable aim.
Schools are encouraged to get involved. They’re trying to encourage schools to promote the STEM subjects ( science, technology, engineering and maths ) and they have a project called ‘associate schools and colleges which means developing a close relationship with the work of the society. It can also mean sharing in responses to government proposals, which means collaborating with experts.
But where do fairy tales and zebras come in? Well it’s not all serious. This is where the ‘playground’ of the Royal Society is to be found. The Open Science. Here scientists decide on a topic which doesn’t sound serious at the time but which gives them a chance to try out existing and new skills. Fairy tales is turns out are many thousands of years old. But in discovering this the researchers also discovered lots about old languages – some of which have disappeared – and how modern languages developed. And zebras might have stripes to confuse predators when they stand or graze together. Find out more from the website. And all this from a ‘chance glance’ at a newspaper!

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I'm semi-retired after a successful and much enjoyed career in education. Funnily enough, my last job was as a tutor for OOL. I taught on courses providing professional training for school support staff, as well as A level English Literature and English Literature GCSE. I've had an interesting career, in schools, colleges, adult education, the Arts and a few other bits and bobs. At one stage I was also a local authority inspector. Now I'm a school governor, and am enjoying watching my young grandchildren go through their own first experiences of school. Through these articles I hope to keep you up to date with different aspects of education news – and also to keep you interested!

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