Homemade Science Fun For Kids
By Jane Zagajeski, Science Department Chair
As an elementary and middle school science teacher, I get to do science with kids for my job. Here are some tips for doing and learning about science with the kids in your life.
Be a naturalist at home (or at the park or on vacation): Spend time outside and observe, identify, count, measure, draw and/or record information about the birds, trees, shells, sticks, rocks, clouds, or insects that you see wherever you are. Record in a special notebook. Tape or glue your findings into the pages.
Do some crazy designing and building: Raid the recycling bin and build something - a bridge across a puddle, the tallest possible tower, a tree-house for fairies! Or use Legos, blocks, wood, or found natural objects. Draw (or photograph) and label the final product. Ask your kid about the building process: what was your biggest challenge? What did you have to change? What surprised you?
Visit a local museum, zoo or nature center: Many places have special events and programs that provide informal science instruction. I recently visited the American Museum of Natural History in New York City with eighth grade students; some of these student hadn’t been since they were much younger and were surprised at the depth of information and detail available. If you are a frequent visitor, find out what your child has been learning in science class and go on a scavenger hunt for those topics specifically.
Become a citizen scientist: There are so many citizen scientist projects out there! These projects enlist regular citizens to collect data, run simple experiments, or analyze images as part of a larger scientific endeavor. You can watch birds, hunt for new planets, monitor water quality, and tag monarch butterflies. National Geographic maintains this list of projects to get you started:
Use your resources: There are so many great books, websites, magazines, and podcasts out there that promote science learning for kids of all ages. For younger readers, the “Let’s Read and Find Out” series offers nonfiction picture books at variety of reading levels. For older kids, reading and discussing articles from the New York Science Times or National Geographic is a great way to build literacy, science content, and an understanding of the process of scientific discovery and application. Brainpop is a great website for short videos on a huge range of topics, and Brains On is a fabulous podcast for curious kids that investigates topics ranging from ants to GPS to volcanoes.
After 18 years of teaching and 8 years of being a parent, I still learn and understand more about science each time I dive into a topic with my students or with my son. I hope these tips help to bring more engagement in science - both for the kids you love and for yourself!