Science can be one of the most intimidating subjects to teach, the time-consuming experiments and vast catalog of material needing to be covered might seem overwhelming. In terms of hand-wringing, it’s usually only second to math. With a little planning and preparation, however, it can also be the most fun and rewarding experience your student will have all year. Finding ways to engage children in everyday science is key to helping them develop a love for science. Use these 10 ideas to help kick start your science exploration.
1) Plan ahead. Read ahead.
Planning and preparation are key components to successful teaching. Try to have a one-month plan prepared before a new class begins. There are plenty of free lesson planners available to help you in your efforts. (Use this link to find a good planner that will work for you). Don’t forget that part of the lesson planning can be tackled by merely reading ahead in the material. Reading ahead and creating lab supply lists in advance are the simplest ways to reduce the stress of teaching science. Real Science-4-Kids makes this step simple by including a supplies checklist with each chapter for quick reference. Many items can be reused in several experiments, so it’s helpful to have one central box, bin, or kit where you can store items for later use. And finally, be prepared to deviate from the planner. Some of the most effective teaching moments happen unexpectedly and are worth adjusting the schedule for.
2) Budget an abundance of experiment time.
Experiments are not only the fun part of science, but are also where your child will develop the most synaptic connections, encouraging long-term memory. One-day lessons should ideally be followed by several days of experimentation to solidify learning. There isn’t a race to cram as many facts as possible into little heads. It’s meant to be a journey that instills a love for learning and nurtures a genuine curiosity about how things work. Foster inquisitiveness by taking time to explore questions and test numerous hypotheses. Don’t lead your student to the “right” answer. Let them meander on the path of exploration toward a natural conclusion.
3) Supplement with additional experiments.
Don’t skimp on the experiments. Use as many as you can. After all, this is where the bulk of the learning happens. There are many wonderful resources for science experiments. A quick internet search will produce more than enough ideas. RealScience-4-Kids also offers several options to help bolster your experimentation process, and these experiments include convenient supply lists for easy preparation. Another idea would be to host one experiment at home and then search for internet clips of other experiments that support learning. Whatever it takes to engage your student, do it.
4) Plan experiments using household items.
There are science lab kits available for purchase to ease your planning and preparation. Rainbow Resources and Home Science Tools are both good resources if you’re looking for prepared kits. Many experiments, however, can be completed using simple household items. Search out those experiments! Don’t waste time and money trying to locate hard-to-find, expensive supplies that can easily be substituted with cheaper alternatives. You don’t want to stifle experimentation because you couldn’t find the needed supplies. The Real Science-4-Kids curriculum makes experiments simple to plan for by using mostly household items for experiments. Household items are generally safer to use when letting students lead the experiments, and that is the preferred outcome. If the student takes ownership of the experiment, they will learn much more.
5) Double down on the topics your kids love.
If you find your student develops a love for a specific topic, slow down and focus on it. Regardless of age, science shouldn’t be a race to finish chapters. Provide additional resources that support the area of interest and then back away. Let your student direct the learning toward his or her point of fascination. This is where you will see a love for learning really blossom.
6) Use documentaries as a resource.
Although teachers and homeschooling parents can accomplish miraculous things, there are some concepts and experiments that just can’t be replicated effectively at home or in the classroom. Documentaries can be a wonderfully useful tool to explore the depths of the ocean or soar through space. They can take you into the microscopic world where no home microscope can venture. Students can learn from professionals on the cutting edge of science while in the comfort of their own home by using documentaries as a resource for scientific exploration.
7) Kids are never too young to study “real science.”
For some reason scientific education for early learners mainly explores biology. Other concepts can get drastically watered down or ignored early on. There is no reason to wait until middle school or high school to dive into “real” science. You can also avoid teaching concepts twice by introducing actual scientific terminology from the beginning. You will discover that your student can easily retain and understand scientific terminology when it’s used on a regular basis.
8) Get out and experience science where it is – in the world around us.
Scientific study and nature go hand in hand. Did you catch the meteor shower during the month of August? What better way to begin your study of astronomy! Are you currently studying biology? Find the nearest zoo or Bodies exhibit to unlock a real-world fascination. Look for a local horticulturist who is willing to host field trips. Is there a rock garden or rock shop nearby? Your study of geology could become immensely interesting.
9) Buddy up.
The addition of friends make science even more enjoyable. Form exploration groups to distribute adult responsibility and provide community for your students. Make science an ongoing part of your social life and it will be associated with fun. The collaboration of minds will amaze you.
10) Check for community resources.
Getting your student to discover his or her scientific fascination can be as simple as directing them to real world examples. Many students have no idea what physics looks like in terms of a career. It’s nothing more than a subject in a textbook. Ask science professionals if they’re willing to accommodate mini mentorships, or find out if local colleges have programs available that support the scientific discipline of choice. These opportunities can also form the foundation for internships later on.
These ideas will encourage a love of science and scientific exploration. They will nurture a child’s inquisitive mind and have a far more lasting impact than rote memorization of factual data. Science is meant to be experienced and not just learned.
Send us feedback about your own useful tools and ideas. We would love to share your ideas with other parents and teachers.