Thursday, April 24, 2008

Science is Magic

Science like Math is a subject that can make kids frustrated. It can be something quite simple like a disinterested teacher, a terrible test grade, a boring science text or one awful experiment that can leave a child with a negative impression of what is really a magical area of study. For it is true that aspects of science can be pretty complex and therefore hard to understand but if science is presented as the magical subject that it is it can make a world of difference. There is support for the view that early exposure to science can spark an interest that leads to further pursuit. Here are some tips to start kids out on the journey of enjoying science.
  • Encourage their curiosity
Most kids are curious about the world around them and a sure way of getting kids to appreciate how special science is, is to show them science at work all around. One way we can do this is to encourage your kids to ask questions. Now most of us may think that this is asking for trouble because lord knows they ask enough questions already, but if we can instill in them the notion that they are natural scientists because they are asking these questions then we are taking some positive steps.

  • Learn Science with Them
Don't ignore their questions and don't give unhelpful or knee jerk responses. If you don't know the answer join in the investigative process. Help them to find the answer. You may even be surprised at your own education because as we know kids ask the darndest things. This reminds me of my earlier post on gross foods. Kids love gross stuff and so if they ask you detailed questions about vomit, ear wax or stomach rumbles you might need to click here. If your kid's class is going on a science field trip you may volunteer to go along as an extra chaperone. Also combine math and reading with science by buying fun, interesting books that focus on science. My son loved any book that had to do with dinosaurs, crocodiles and alligators. You never know your kid might become a paleontolgist one day.

  • Make Science a Hand's On Experience/and Part of Play
It is even better when you can show instead of just telling your kids the answer. This is what makes science so special and different. The possibility to show through experiments adds to the excitement. It does not follow that you must buy expensive science kits. The internet has loads of examples that you can apply at home. Try to find the science behind bubbles that they so love to blow and use a simple magnifying glass to add a whole new dimension to the art of observation. Show them how water travels up a stalk of celery. Use their balls to teach about gravity and force. Also for those of you squeamish about TV there are some great kid shows which do present science in a fun way. My son loved the Magic School Bus (Is it still on?) Check out Bill Nye the Science Guy he has a website too, so you can revisit the experiments you saw on tv. Also Discovery and National Geographic have some interesting and well presented shows.

  • Use Your Immediate Environment
Continuing on the last tip, it is important to make science relevant to what kids see everyday. Their bodies, pets, garden plants, food, kitchen implements are great resource materials to name a few. It is important that kids learn about their bodies and the changes in their bodies from their parents anyway so take the opportunity and merge your role as parent and teacher of science. Again this does not have to be an expensive exercise. Don't you remember growing beans? Also kids love animals especially insects and any animal that can become a pet. The different classifications of animals can be highlighted easily. The snails, worms, fish, frogs, lizards and of course the dogs and cats have so much to teach our kids. What about the weather? If you help them to they will learn to observe the world around them more. My son loved collecting rocks and learning about the different kinds. The kitchen, the bathroom, the garden, your city museum and zoo are places your kids can see science in action. We just have to help them to open their eyes.

  • Safety is a Must
You should remind kids constantly about the importance of keeping safe. With any science experiment safety first must be the ground rule. Be very observant. Buy them a white coat to encourage them to enjoy the process and recognize that being safe does not mean being afraid. Let them wear goggles if you are doing anything that can pose a hazard to the eye. Let them use tongs and gloves in the kitchen or anyplace you are using hot or cold items. Remind them that many plants are poisonous and to avoid putting their hands near their face and definitely avoid the eyes and the mouth. Visit the Council of State Science Supervisors website and download and print their safety guidelines.

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