“Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science.” ~Edwin Powell Hubble, The Nature of Science, 1954
Several weeks back, my high school junior and my third grader quizzed each other as they studied for tests. The elder was studying photosynthesis for an AP biology test; her younger brother, the parts of the plant.
It was entertaining to listen to their conversation: The concept that what my son was studying now would have relevance down the road may have gone over his head, but I could hear that he pretty much thought they were studying the same thing.
Science has connections to everyday life, and children like science because it engages their curiosity. Through science, they search for answers to questions such as “why is the sky blue?” and “why do leaves fall from trees?” They can also do some pretty neat things, such as build a mini volcano, make invisible ink and make a lemon battery.
What our elementary-age children probably don’t realize is that they are learning important life skills while studying science – skills such as patience and perseverance (a seed won’t bloom overnight), and communication (talking and listening are important parts of research and experiments).
Science also helps kids to think about what could happen before they do an experiment, to create a hypothesis in their mind. They learn that not everything works the first time. When an experiment goes wrong, they can figure out why and try it again. (There’s that perseverance again.)
There’s also a healthy dose of skepticism that can come from questioning why certain things happen. It can teach children to form their own opinions, rather than just accepting someone else’s explanation.
There are lots of ways to help your child discover the wonders of science with simple experiments at home. Here are a few suggestions:
Fly a kite to teach about gravity and lift, two important science terms.
Watch a puddle change in the driveway over the course of several days and you’ll learn about evaporation.
Leave an egg in vinegar for a day to show how acid eats away the shell
Put a stalk of celery in water with food coloring to demonstrate capillary action.
Experiment with different foods such as leaving bread to mold and talk about decomposition
For more cool ideas, check out these links:
Science Bob Fun Science Experiments
From PBS Kids, Zoomsci
Karen Nerney has been a communications specialist with the Capital Region BOCES Communications Service since 2011. Prior to that, she spent many years as a journalist in the Boston area. She is mom to two teen-age daughters and an 8-year-old son. She has learned through observation that science experiments sometimes do go awry … and that cleaning up is also part of the learning process.