Hey, parents and teachers! These ideas from our book (Family Science) are about encouraging children to engage in science.
One of the goals of Family Science is to get kids more excited about science and technology. Children are often naturally curious about science, but the ways we communicate and act sometimes discourages that curiosity before it can flourish. Subtle messages from parents, teachers and other adults can convince some students that science isn’t for them. You can help remove obstacles to science learning for your own children by trying some of the following suggestions:
Raise your expectations.
Research shows that children tend to perform to the level of the expectations placed on them by teachers, parents, and adult mentors. Set high expectations for your children and help them to accomplish their goals.
Curious adults ask questions, and kids are no different. When children ask questions, they are trying to develop models and explanations for what they see around them. This is exactly what scientists do. Encourage your child to ask questions, and don’t be afraid if you don’t know the answers. Scientists don’t know all the answers either. That’s why they investigate!
Emphasize future education.
Help your children see the value of education by showing them that you value it, too. Even if you did not complete your own education, you can still show your children that you think education is important by talking with their teachers, asking about homework, and attending school functions.
One of the fun things about science is all the neat tools and gizmos that are associated with scientific study. When doing science activities, make sure your children have plenty of materials to work with. Most supplies aren’t expensive and can be found around your home.
When a child shows interest in a topic, encourage him/her to pursue that interest as far as possible. Check out books from the library, search online (with adult help!), talk to friends, teachers, family members and neighbors about it. Help your child to build models, draw pictures or write about his/her particular interest. When one interest passes, move on to the next one!
All children need good self-esteem to be successful no matter what field of study they pursue. Eliminate any negative talk about science and math from your vocabulary and your children’s. Some examples include parents saying, “I hated math when I was a kid,” or children teasing each other about becoming a “science nerd.”
Discuss the accomplishments of “non-traditional” scientists.
Fortunately, we have more opportunities every day to expose children to scientists who come from underrepresented groups. Talk about what scientists do and point out scientists who defy stereotypes.
Connect with role models.
Children learn by example. Meeting and talking with people from a variety of backgrounds and careers opens your children’s eyes to their own potential in the future.
Visit science places.
Take your children to visit museums, science centers, zoos, botanical gardens, planetariums and nature centers. Offer to take friends and other family members, too.