how-to-make-a-volcano-paper-macheYou start with baking soda.

You add vinegar.

You say “Cool!” when the bubbly mess oozes its way down the paper mache cone.

It’s the vinegar and baking soda volcano – the quintessential childhood experience!  Kids and science seem made for each other!  And here are 4 reasons why it is important to encourage this affinity.

The scientific method fosters thinking skills.  The very basis of science is a system of thought and experiment called the scientific method.  It’s where you start with an idea, create a concrete way to prove or disprove your idea, and objectively show what you learned.  Learning to follow this process helps you think logically.  Seeing the relationship between empirical evidence and your theory helps you think critically.  These important thinking skills can be applied in many areas of study.  To give a child practice with these thinking skills is like giving vitamins to a developing mind.

Science feeds a natural love for learning.  One of the greatest things we can teach our children is to love learning.  Science is a great medium to do so.  Children are inquisitive explores by nature and science offers lots to explore.  Because much of science is hands-on, it appeals readily to most children.  Nothing makes a child sit up and take notice like the “WOW!” of a great science presentation.  Science can rev up a love for learning that will spill over into other subjects.

Science opens doors to many disciplines.  Building an aptitude for science can be helpful in other areas of study.  For example, one cannot pursue science for very long without becoming fluent in its language – mathematics!  So science encourages math.  An interest in science is an interest in how things were once understood compared to how they are understood now.  Thus studying science lends itself easily to studying history.  And hand-in-hand with every lab experiment is the lab report – thus writing becomes a crucial part of science.  Even study of language is a part of science as the scientific names of animals and many elements of the periodic table are Latin.

Science prepares for the future.  Science is the basis for much of our life.  Agricultural science dictates how our food is produced, biomedical science keeps us healthy, physics and mechanical science takes from place to place, even our beds these days are constructed according to scientific principles (or so the ads tell us!).  We almost literally eat, sleep and breathe science!  As we prepare the next generation of consumers, voters, creators, and policy makers it is critical to ensure they are not only comfortable but adept in science.

So how do we nurture our scientists-in-training?  I would suggest the following:

  • Make science a priority.  Instead of seeing education as reading, writing, arithmetic . . . oh, and if we have time we’ll squeeze in some science, why not let science be the backdrop for the others?  For example, pick a science-related theme (the rain forest, for example) and read about that subject (reading), tally and graph biodiversity (math), and write about how the rain forest is changing and why.  And of course include science studies like meteorology and erosion experiments.
  • Introduce them to real, live scientists.  Whether at a science museum or a local university or facility, give them a chance to interact with real scientists – to hear how they think and how they approach their research.
  • Ask how and why.  To encourage kids to think like scientists, ask them how they think something works or why something happens the way it does.  When they pose those questions to you, don’t be quick to shrug them off.  Model for them an inquisitive mind that seeks to understand how and why.
  • Let them take it apart!  Along the same lines as “how and why,” whenever possible let children take something of interest apart to better understand it.  An old radio that no longer works can be a great learning opportunity.  (Of course any kind of exploration should be done under adult supervision with safety the utmost importance.  No pets, siblings, or homes should ever be damaged in the interest of science!)
  • S.T.E.M. is a great program, bringing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics to students.  Most places have access to programs and presentations offered by STEM.
  • Curriculum Whether as homeschool or supplementing  public school, a science curriculum at home can be very helpful.  Global Student Network has a number of fascinating science curricula and courses to bring science to your home.

So, hypothesize over dinner, google how the moon affects the earth, don’t be afraid to ask a question even you don’t know the answer to, read why popcorn pops – embrace the learning adventure with your own budding scientist!

Copyright © 2013 J. Hoffman / GSN

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