Science for fun…
Does that sound strange? If it does, you aren’t alone. It would have sounded ridiculous to me even a few years back. But I’ve changed my tune.
Let me explain.
When my daughter started school last year there was a big emphasis on continuing to “read for fun”. That is, although she was learning how to read, which sometimes felt hard, we should continue to read together the way we always have as a family. Part of the idea is to help children remember why they love books and that by learning to read, they will give themselves the joy of reading things that they love for pleasure.
No one I know questioned the concept or thought that reading for fun would be hard to fit into their week.
“Riiight” I hear you say, “and that has what to do with science?”. Great question!
There is absolutely no reason that science can’t be fun. In fact, you probably already have fun with it or share an interest in it with your family without really thinking about it.
Do you ever:
- Build Lego structures (physics and engineering)
- Bake cakes or bread (chemistry)
- Stop to talk about insects (entomology)
- Talk about how plants grow (botany)
I could give you so many more examples, but I bet that your mind is already ticking over. What is missing is the conversation about the fact that you are being scientists together. If you are building, chat about the fact that people called engineers design all sorts of different structures. If they show an interest, become researchers together and look up some unusual buildings on the internet.
If you make cakes or bread, ask if the kids know how it goes from dough or liquid to a solid thing that is larger than what you put into the oven (if you don’t know, you can look it up or watch this space for a blog in the near future).
Take the time to notice things around you when you are outside. It doesn’t take a special expedition to find insects, even in an urban jungle. Notice ants on the street and make observations about what they are doing.
The important thing is to help your child draw the connection between what they are doing and the fact that it relates to a scientific field. This is sometimes called “scaffolding”. It is about building small connections in their mind so that when they are presented with more formal classes in school, the information has something to connect to and build on. The formal learning will also seem relevant and interesting because it relates to something enjoyable outside of the learning environment.
I read an article yesterday indicating that a national study of year 6 students showed that only 55 per cent of them meet the expected standard for an Australian school and that performance at this level has not improved in over 10 years. I know that the reasons for this are complex and there is no single fix to address the issue. I also know that small, positive steps such as showing children that science is meaningful and interesting in the context of their world are very likely to make a significant difference.
If you aren’t sure where to start, have a look at our Chemistry in Action kit, it could be just the thing you need.
Books can also help. Here’s a selection that might give you the boost you need. The titles of the books are affiliate links. This means that if you click on them, they will take you to that book on Book Depository web site. If you decide to buy, then I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no cost to you.
Kitchen Science Lab by Liz Lee Heinecke
Although the book is recommended for children aged 9+, many of the experiments could easily be conducted by children as young as 4 or 5 years old. The science for each experiment is well explained so that children in the recommended age group will understand what they have been doing. The explanations are also appropriate for parents who are not familiar with some of the principles who can then adapt them for younger children.
Outdoor Science Lab by Liz Lee Heinecke
Same author (she is fabulous), different context. I really love this book. We have done a number of the experiments in it and there are still plenty more to go. Some of the experiments require a bit of planning and set up, they aren’t just small things that you can do on the go. They are definitely lots of fun and very engaging so worth saving for a weekend. There are others that can be done with just 10 minutes up your sleeve. The science for each experiment is well set out and just like the Kitchen Science Lab, adults will be able to do many of the experiments with younger children and explain the science to them.
If you aren’t certain that you are ready to dive right in to doing science experiments then Look inside: Science by Usborne might be more your style. The book explores various scientific ideas in a colourful and engaging way. It is good for children in the 5 to 9 year old age range. It also has some experiments that you can try when you feel ready!