Education Guides

Helping Your Child Learn Science

Why is the sky blue? Why do things fall to the ground? How do seeds grow? What makes the sound and music? Where do mountains come from?

Young children ask their parents hundreds of questions like these. In search of answers, we use science to both enlighten and delight. Being "scientific" involves being curious, observing, asking how things happen and learning how to find the answers.
Curiosity is natural to children, but they need help understanding how to make
sense of what they see and to relate their observations to their existing ideas
and understandings. This is why parental involvement is so important in
children"s science education. When we encourage children to ask questions, make
predictions, offer explanations and explore in a safe environment, we lend them
the kind of support that they need to become successful science students and
scientific thinkers.

As a parent, you don"t have to
be a scientist or have a college degree to help your child learn science.
What"s far more important than being able to give a technical explanation of
how a telescope works is your willingness to nurture your child"s natural
curiosity by taking the time to observe and learn together.

Science "happens" all around
us every day, and you have endless opportunities to invite your child into the
wonders of science. Without expensive chemistry sets, equipment or kits, a
child can be introduced easily to the natural world and encouraged to observe
what goes on in that world. When you least expect it, a moment for learning will
occur: A bit of ice cream drops on the sidewalk and ants appear; some cups
float and some sink when you"re washing dishes; static electricity makes your
hair stand on end when you put on a sweater.

As a parent, you are preparing
your child for a world vastly different from the one in which you grew up. Our
increasingly technological society will need citizens who have received far
more advanced instruction in science and technology than most of us received
when we were in school. Even children who don"t want to become physicists,
chemists, engineers or computer technicians will need some knowledge of science
and technology just to conduct their everyday lives. Every citizen needs to be
scientifically literate in order to make informed decisions about health,
safety and citizenship. Our children need our help and guidance to prepare for
the world that awaits them.

Scientific knowledge is
cumulative: To learn new things, you must build on what you already know. So,
it"s important that your child start learning early—and at home. A good way for
you to begin the learning process is by sharing your own interest in science.
How you view and talk about science can influence your child"s attitudes toward
science—and how she1 approaches learning science. It"s easy to undermine a
child"s interest and attitudes by saying things such as, "I was lousy in
science, and I"ve done OK," or "I always hated science when I was in school.
It"s boring." Although you can"t make your child like science, you can
encourage her to do so, and you can help her to appreciate its value both in
her everyday life and in preparing for her future.

In everyday interactions with
your child, you can do many things—and do them without lecturing or applying
pressure—to help her learn science. Here are a few ideas:

_ See how long it takes for a
dandelion or a rose to burst into full bloom.

_ Watch the moon as it appears
to change shape over the course of a month and record the changes.

_ Look for constellations in
the night sky.

_ Bake a cake.

_ Solve the problem of a
drooping plant.

_ Figure out how the spin
cycle of the washing machine gets the water out of the clothes.

_ Take apart an old clock or
mechanical toy—you don"t need to put it back together!

_ Watch icicles melt.

_ Observe pigeons, squirrels,
butterflies, ants or spider webs.

_ Go for a walk and talk about
how the dogs (or birds or cats) that you see are alike and different.

_ Discover what materials the
buildings in your community are made of. Wood? Concrete? Adobe? Brick? Granite?
Sandstone? Steel? Glass? Talk about the reasons for using these materials.

Learning to observe carefully
is an important step leading to scientific explanations. Experiencing the world
with your child and exchanging information with him about what you see are
important, too.

Finally, encourage your child
to ask questions. If you can"t answer all of her questions, that"s all right—
no one has all the answers, not even scientists. For example, point out that
there"s no known cure for a cold, but that we do know how diseases are passed
from person to person—through germs. Some of the best answers you can give are,
"What do you think?" and "Let"s find out together." Together, you and your
child can propose possible answers, test them out and check them by using
reference books, the Internet, or by asking someone who is likely to know the
correct answers.

How to Use This Article

This article makes available
to you information that you can use to help your child to learn science. It

_ Some basic information about

_ Activities for you and your
child to do, both in the home and the community;

_ Practical suggestions for
how to work with teachers and schools to help your child succeed in science;

_ A list of science-related
resources, including federal sources of information, publications for parents,
science-related children"s magazines and books, and information about science


The Basics


What Is Science?

Science is not just a
collection of facts. Of course, facts are an important part of science: Water
freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit (or 0 degrees Celsius), and the earth moves
around the sun. But science is much, much more. Science involves:

_ Observing what"s happening;

_ Classifying or organizing

_ Predicting what will happen;

_ Testing predictions under
controlled conditions to see if they are correct; and

_ Drawing conclusions.

Science involves trial and
error—trying, failing and trying again. Science doesn"t provide all the
answers. It requires us to be skeptical so that our scientific "conclusions"
can be modified or changed altogether as we make new discoveries.

Children Have Their Own "scientific Concepts"

Very young children can come
up with many interesting explanations to make sense of the world around them.
When asked about the shape of the earth, for example, some will explain that
the earth has to be flat because, if it were round like a ball, people and
things would fall off it. Presented with a globe and told that this is the true
shape of the earth, these children may adapt their explanation by saying that
the earth is hollow and that people live on flat ground inside it.

Even older children can come
up with unique "scientific" explanations, as in the following examples provided
by middle-school students:

"Fossils are bones that
animals are through wearing."

"some people can tell what
time it is by looking at the sun, but I"ve never been able to make out the

"Gravity is stronger on the
earth than on the moon because here on earth we have a bigger mess."

"A blizzard is when it snows

Asking Questions

As mentioned earlier, it"s
important to encourage your child to ask questions. It"s also important to ask
your child questions that will get him talking about his ideas and to listen
carefully to his answers. Keep in mind that children"s experiences help them
form their ideas—ideas that may, or may not, match current scientific
interpretations. Help your child to look at things in new ways. For instance,
in regard to the blizzard, you could ask, "Have you ever seen it snow
sideways?" or "What do you think causes it to snow sideways sometimes?"

Such conversation can be an
important form of inquiry or learning. Encourage your child by letting him know
that it"s OK to make mistakes or admit he doesn"t know something. Rather than
saying, "No, that"s wrong," when he gives an incorrect explanation, give him
accurate information or help him to find it. Going back to the blizzard, you
could ask your child, "How could you check your definition?" "How does the
dictionary"s definition of "blizzard" fit with what you said about snow moving

Knowing that you are willing
to listen will help your child to gain confidence in his own thinking and encourage
his interest in science. And listening to what he says will help him to figure
out what he knows and how he knows it.

Hands-On Works Well

Investigating and
experimenting are great ways for to learn science and increase their
understanding of

scientific ideas. Hands-on
science can also help children think critically and gain confidence in their
own ability to solve problems. Young children especially are engaged by things
they can touch, manipu


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About the Editor

By Courtney Lynne I am an analyst by profession and trend researching is my passion. I also loves to share my knowledge. Get me on Google + and Twitter Find us on Google+

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