Science is more than a pink volcano

When we ask most parents to recall science in their elementary school years, many describe the “baking soda and vinegar volcano” that oozed pink lava all over the kitchen floor. Perhaps they recall the green gunk they collected from the river near the “ol’ swimmin’ hole.” Our remembrance is foggy at best and our experiences limited by the resources available at the time.

What does science look like now? It is an opportunity to build a house of straw and paper that will withstand the velocity of a windstorm (box fan). It is about exploring polarity in magnets and making observations about these.  It is about watching and explaining how and why a cornstarch and water substance can be rolled into a ball and then immediately puddles. It is about the vocabulary of investigation, systems and properties, and design.

In order to do science, kids need to learn how to “LOOK.”  They also need adults willing to explain how things work, and to ask questions…oh so many questions. “How is sleet different than snow? What makes an airplane stay in the air?  How do the traffic lights know when to change? Why do they call it a rain shadow?”

When our children are very young, they have deep desire to explore and make sense of their world. (Little kids doing science.) By the time they are in school a few years, many have decided they aren’t very good at science so they stop exploring on their own. Only a few take that questioning and exploration into their adult years.

So what can you do? Talk with your child as you go about your day. Involve her in “hands-on” activities like changing her bike tire, or digging a small trench for the vegetable garden. Use terms like tire pressure, gear driven and momentum as you talk about the process of riding and maintaining a bike. Gardening offers opportunities to discuss irrigation, importance of sunlight, soil nutrients, or other topics as your child is able to understand.

Your child may be the next Madame Curie, Thomas Edison or Bill Gates. There are no limits to the creativity your child holds within her. Ask your librarian or your child’s teacher to recommend some books on simple science activities.  Here are some activities online:


PBS:  Remember to stay with the “hands on” activities rather than the computer games for maximum fun and learning!

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