REAL Persistence Is the Key

Actor, Henry Winkler, grew up with learning challenges. He recently appeared on film giving some advice to his younger self. “No matter how hard it is for you to learn, no matter how difficult school is, it has nothing to do with how brilliant you are. You are not defined by your grades. You are defined by how great your thoughts are. You can do anything. You just find another path to do it.” He went on to say, “It’s okay, you don’t have to be so nervous because you can’t spell.” This valuable advice applies to each and every student, especially those studying science. Persistence is the key and king in the science realm.

We all have people we look up to for their knowledge, accomplishments, and character. But, how did our icons and mentors get to where they are? After all, no one is perfect. Successful professionals in every field, especially science, achieved success through hard work and a whole lot of persistence.

Recognizing that science heroes like Albert Einstein experienced a great deal of failure along the way can help students pick themselves back up after a setback and try, try again. Recent studies have demonstrated how valuable this message is to convey to young struggling students. One 2016 study conducted by the cognitive-studies researcher Xiaodon Lin-Siegler of Columbia University’s Teacher College found that students’ science grades showed significant improvement after being taught about the intellectual struggles of scientists like Einstein and Marie Curie. The students who were only taught about the scientists’ achievements actually experienced a decline in their grades. These findings were substantial enough that in mid-April, 2018, announced the creation of the Interdisciplinary Education for Persistence and Innovation Center.

There is purpose and value in the attempt and failure process, so long as young scientists and explorers are encouraged to analyze the attempts and learn from them. “Failure needs to give people a chance to regroup and rewind the clock,” Lin-Siegler explained. Her main goal, she said, is to help students realize that failure is a normal part of the process of learning. This process also models the scientific method.

A helpful tip when teaching science to your students is to focus on the idea that failure isn’t bad. Perseverance and persistence are what matter. Talk about the idea that success isn’t necessarily the result of aptitude, but more closely related to the amount of elbow grease applied. Some learners, like Winkler, are going to have to come at learning from different angles and it might take more attempts for some than others. But, success is there for the taking with the right amount of grit and perseverance.

Teach students that brilliant scientists worked very hard. They didn’t rely on innate talent and aptitude. It’s easy to look at an accomplished scientist and assume they were just born smart and success was inevitable. However, if you take the time to talk to those very same scientist you would learn a whole new story, one that involves a lot of hard work.

In the story The Little Engine That Could, the train says, “I think I can. I think I can.” This phrase is repeated until the train finally makes it to the top of the hill. If each of those utterances of “I think I can” were to represent an attempt with the possibility of failure, even a failure would be another inch closer to your goal. This example is nearer to the reality of what it takes to succeed — many attempts, many failures, and enough perseverance to reach the crest of the hill. But, don’t be surprised if the train backslides at times. That, too, can happen. With each failure comes another opportunity to try.

LIVING SIMPLY – LIVING WELL

Nothing effectively conveys the magnitude of complication that enters your life with the welcome of your first child. He or she is a blessing, for sure. But, life is forever changed and chaos can easily reign. What a wonderful, rewarding, and crazy ride it is…and even more glorious when viewed through life’s rose colored rear-view mirror.

Let’s face it, you can’t avoid chaos altogether. It’s not even advisable to try since the sources of chaos also tend to be the sources of joy and learning. You can, however, choose to minimize the extent that chaos is in control. A manageable amount of stress teaches you to swim in turbulent water. Massive amounts of stress can leave you drowning.

There’s no recipe to create a perfectly balanced environment. That’s just something you have to figure out through trial and error, since each lifestyle has its own set of variables to work with. Odds are, however, that in the hectic environment we live in today there will be plenty of room for simplification in any home.

Simplifying your life can be a tricky task because it will feel like it’s doing just the opposite for a while. Some processes that lead to long-term simplification require initial work and time, but what a payoff!

Simplification in the homeschool world is absolutely essential. Following is a list of 10 items we think produce the best results and can drastically reduce chaos in your home.

     

10 simple rules for a simpler life

   

1. Learn to say no. It’s easier said than done. Ultimately, you’re the gatekeeper, and “no” is your handiest tool. You control what enters your life. Continually saying yes in order to please others, or as an attempt to “do it all” is a fast trip to stress and exhaustion. Regardless of how many times you say yes, someone is inevitably going to be upset and put out when you say no. So, why not learn to get the disappointing “no” out of the way much earlier? It’s OK to let some things go, advisable even. Saying no enough times initially will also likely result in fewer requests in the long run.

              

2. Teach children to be self-sufficient. Some might find this to be the most challenging rule to implement. It requires a great deal of effort up front. Teaching kids to do something for themselves rather than you doing it for them is exhausting — in the short term. You’re also likely to get some resistance from your children. Some moms experience “mommy guilt” as their children struggle and push back at independence. Don’t stop! Keep moving forward. In the end they will actually respect you more for this act of tough love. You’ll be a better mom when you have a team of people able to help cover all the bases.

              

3. Less is more: Kids’ activities, commitments, clothing, toys, and more. Keep only the toys your kids regularly play with, even if the neighbor flaunts twice the number of toys you have. That mom just has more to clean up. Buy a small amount of clothing that is easily mix-n-matched. They will grow out of their clothes all too soon, anyway. And, kids’ activities? Too many of those turn you into a chauffeur, not a mom.

                 

4. Develop methods of organization that any family member can manage. Having a clean and organized house can really help provide a feeling of calm. Maintaining an organized home can create a ton of stress, however, especially when you’re the only one that buys into the plan. Declutter as much as you can by getting rid of things that aren’t used. Remember, less is more. Toys, books, and art/school supplies could be easily stored in simple-to-use bins that even your youngest child can figure out, use, and also help organize.

 

One tool you can use to get your family involved in organizing and cleaning the home is this app from ChoreMonster.

 

 

Another app that helps you set up to-do lists, shopping lists, or household chores is Wunderlist. This could also be categorized as a collaborative calendar as well.

       

 

 

5. Use one family calendar. Simplification is the key, and getting everyone on the same page means there aren’t any last-minute, stress-inducing surprises. Maintaining one family calendar is critical toward this effort. Here are a few suggestions for digital programs that can coordinate multiple people on one calendar.

COZI APP – This app lets you keep track of recurring appointments for multiple people and helps with meal planning and to-do lists.

 

 

GOOGLE CALENDAR — This app is a great option for busy families with multiple schedules to track.

 

 

FAMILY WALL — functioning like a mini Facebook app, Family Wall lets you post events, schedules, and even share pictures.

 

 

 

HUB FAMILY ORGANIZER — This app keeps your home and family organized.

            

 

 

6. Set aside time for the family to plan the week, then post the schedule where everyone can see it. As wonderful as the digital calendars are (and they really are fantastic), nothing beats an old fashioned dry erase board displayed in a traffic area of the home and filled with weekly activities for everyone to see. Not all members of the family may have access to electronics, but they can still take ownership of their activities. They just need to be able to see what those responsibilities are, and being a part of the weekly planning really helps them want to use the system. The more group involvement that goes into planning, the less the responsibility sits squarely on your shoulders.

                 

7. Use a nightly prep list to prepare for the next day. This may sound like extra work, but it’s really not. The goal here isn’t to add more structure; it’s to decrease stress. Planning for the next day reduces stress and adds efficiency. This item is key to reducing morning stress. The goal is to avoid the anxiety that comes from unmanaged chaos.

          

8. If you have young kids, always have an essentials bag handy: Snacks, water, baby wipes, clothing, Band-Aids, and a busy activity. Store your essentials in a small bag that can easily be transferred between the purses or satchels you regularly use.

          

9. You aren’t in a parenting competition with anyone but yourself. No mom is Pinterest perfect, although some do a good job of faking it. It’s easy to feel like you’re failing at the whole parenting thing when some woman in a starched apron claiming to be a stay-at-home mom produces dark chocolate cupcakes with perfectly piped salted caramel frosting. Her evidence of perfection is the Photoshopped image pinned with the caption, “Leisure afternoon project”. What you don’t see are the things outside the camera lens: toy strewn floor, dirty diapers, unfolded laundry, drippy noses, or an overworked grandma. Homeschooling moms, especially, have many hats to wear. Only one hat can be worn at a time…and it’s OK to put the others down while we focus on our kids’ education.

Kids learn at different paces as well. It’s OK if your friend’s daughter started reading a year ahead of your son. He’ll catch up at his own pace. Don’t worry. And, most importantly, don’t compare. That goes for the mom whose daughter was the early reader, too. Don’t compare. You may be one proud mamma of your early reader, but other moms are only going to feel inferior and that isn’t going to win you any friends.    

   

10. Make downtime a priority. Kids need downtime and so do you. Set aside a little time to relax and mentally unwind from the chaos of the day. Time is such a limited commodity and we give virtually all of ours to our kids. It’s OK to hoard just a few minutes for private quiet time. It will only serve to make you a better mamma during the other 23 ½ hours of the day.

Simplification is an ongoing process. It takes time to reduce possessions, change habits and develop new rhythms. It’s not easy to change directions when your family is moving at the speed of light with chaos always creeping in. Begin slowly with small and simple changes in just one category. Even small steps are a move in the right direction. Over time, you can accomplish great things. Simplification is about finding balance as you move away from “too much.” Less truly is more.

10 Ways to Encourage Scientific Exploration

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.

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Winter Science Project – Making Borax Crystal Snowflakes

Winter is a magical time filled with many holiday traditions and seasonal changes. All of us at Real Science-4-Kids want to share this little wintertime experiment with you and spread the seasonal joy.

Did you know you can grow your own snowflake ornaments using common household materials? If you would like to try it, follow these simple steps. At the end of the directions, we’ll share some of the science behind this experiment.

Supplies List:

How to make the magic happen:

1) With the scissors, snip the pipe cleaner into 3 equal parts. Then, twist 2 of the pipe cleaner segments around each other at their middles to form a cross shape. Add the 3rd piece of pipe cleaner to form a six-pointed snowflake. Bend the top point into a loop for a hanger.

2) In the mixing bowl dissolve 3 tablespoons of Borax into 1 cup of water.

3) Using the Borax solution, fill the bottom of the pie plate. Dip your pipe cleaner snowflake in the solution so that the pipe cleaners are completely dampened.

4) Tie a short piece of string through the top loop. Then, tie the other end of the string around the pencil. Suspend the snowflake inside the jar. Now for the hard part, walk away and leave it untouched!

5) You should start to see crystals forming on your snowflake after 1 to 3 hours and your crystal snowflake should be complete after 24 hours. It seems obvious, but make sure you DO NOT EAT THE SNOWFLAKE.

This process will work for other shapes as well. Get creative. Use food coloring in your solution if you want additional color variations. If you really want to get crazy, try putting glow-in-the-dark paint on the pipe cleaner before dipping it in the borax solution. If you want a more defined snowflake shape, you can also try using a cut sponge instead of the pipe cleaner. We would love to hear about your results!

Learning Real Science: Student Notebooks for Book 5 and Up

 

Some of you have noticed that our study notebooks for books 5 and up are different than the study notebooks for books 1-4. The study notebooks for books 1-4 are full color with activities such as fill-in-the-blank, simple question and answer, and mini-experiments. These study notebooks reinforce the information presented in the student texts and laboratory workbooks and are simply a way for students to review the content they are learning.

The study notebooks for books 5 and up are completely different. They are black and white with very little content. The questions proposed are abstract and open-ended. The student is left struggling, at times, to figure out how to proceed. There is, in fact, very little guidance on what to write down. In the opening pages, the student is instructed to mark out any question they don’t like and write their own.

So why are they so different?

It all goes back to how to teach a student, any student, real science. What is real science? And how can I (Dr. Keller and author of these books) deliver a product that will not only give students the nuts and bolts of real science (the facts), but also develop the passion, curiosity, and tenacity to really learn science?  With these questions in mind, I created a different kind of study notebook for older students.

Although learning the facts (how an atom forms a molecule, what moves a ball forward, what kinds of minerals are found in granite etc.), is important for understanding science, real science is much more than uploading a database of information into a student’s long-term memory. Learning real science is mostly about playing with ideas, tinkering with experiments, and exploring questions that are interesting to the student. I added emphasis to the last part of that sentence because, truthfully, if a student is not interested in a subject they won’t really learn it.

Learning occurs when students are pushed slightly past their comfort zone, into an area of unfamiliarity and discomfort. Students who reach book 5 in the series have been filling in the blanks and answering questions for 4 years with the study notebooks. They are familiar and comfortable with the format but they haven’t yet been challenged to think for themselves. Nor have they been given the freedom to explore what truly interests them. Starting in Book 5, students are given the opportunity to take all that they have learned and play, tinker, explore, question and discover.

The student notebooks starting in Book 5 are not for teachers or parents to grade or review. In fact, I’d highly recommend that parents and teachers hand the notebooks to the students and never look at them again. These notebooks are for students to write down what ignites them, what they are curious about, and to replace with their own questions what they have no interest in exploring.

If you are not comfortable having your students struggle, occasionally complain about being bored, or feeling frustrated, please do not order the study notebooks for Book 5 and up.  However, if you want your student to learn to push past the initial discomfort that occurs with learning anything new and discover real science in a way that will last them a lifetime and if you can support your student without doing all their work for them then the study notebooks for Books 5 and up are perfect and will help develop a student’s passion, curiosity, and tenacity.

The Benefits of Failure

Olivia was an athlete, a successful one. She knew what it felt like to win because she regularly tasted the sweetness of victory.

Orange bits of dyed polyurethane track pressed on fingertips. Stomach muscles knotted into a tight ball of nervousness as the starting gun was about to be raised skyward. Running was in her blood. This was to be the race of all races, the culmination of four years’ sweat and perseverance. She had easily made it to the finals in her division and was favored to finish in the top two. But, second place wasn’t an option. No one of merit ever finished second. That would simply be a defeat. Failure was not something she was accustomed to or prepared to deal with. In her heart, however, Olivia knew the competition in this race matched her own skill. It was to be all or nothing. Her coach and parents certainly wouldn’t cheer on a second place finisher.

Following a fitful and sleepless night, thoughts of failure were inundating her mind, and she quickly became her own toughest competition. With each passing millisecond Olivia grew more certain of her inability to win the race. Fear of defeat insidiously crept into her consciousness, paralyzing mind and body. With the inevitability of the race looming, all doubt vanished. She would lose the race. Her lack of ability to cope with the idea of failure had defeated the undefeated athlete. The deafening crack of a gunshot rang out. Cleated feet around her instantly engaged. Still set in the starting blocks, Olivia numbly stared as the competition rounded the first corner. Failure by default was a bitter pill.

Olivia was an athlete, a much wiser one. She knew what it felt like to win because she had tasted the sweetness of victory, but Olivia was now experienced enough to know what it felt like to lose because she had also tasted the bitterness of defeat. The latter proved to be very valuable over time.

Though the story of Olivia is fictional, it’s a familiar story. Far too often children are frozen into inaction by a deep-seated fear of failure. Wisdom, however, grows with the number of attempts, not merely the number of successes. Scientists have known this pearl of wisdom for ages, as attested to by Thomas Edison when referring to his work with light bulbs:

Scientific history is filled with many eureka moments—from Archimedes’ bath to Newton’s apple—but the scientific process entails many false starts that are essential to the advancement of science. Actually, Newton wound up being wrong about two little things—time and space. They aren’t absolute as he asserted. But, would we ever consider Newton a failure? Newton was essentially and beautifully wrong, and it was his flawed model that led to Einstein’s incredible breakthroughs.

So what are good failures? Are there really such failures at all? Or is it the acceptance of failure as a path toward wisdom that makes it so valuable? Virtually all of science might be considered a failure, because scientific discoveries are constantly being revised. Scientists are able to progress from failure to failure as they move toward success in the interim…understanding there is a propensity to be proven incorrect yet again. There is nothing to be feared in being proven wrong.

Can you imagine making failure a positive outcome to children? What if we created an environment where failure, as a step toward improvement, was merely a challenge to try again? If you really want to give your children the gift of success, teach them how to fail without fear, because they will inevitably fail at something regardless of their attitude toward it.

Scientists are not their failed experiments, though the outcomes of those experiments might be considered as such. They are able to separate their personal worth from scientific outcomes. Shouldn’t children be taught the same principle? Never was this message so succinctly expressed than by the Irish poet Samuel Beckett:

“EVER TRIED. EVER FAILED. NO MATTER. TRY AGAIN. FAIL AGAIN. FAIL BETTER.”

The next time you are faced with defeat, consider dusting yourself off and saying, “Again!” After all, the best way to convey the message of successful failure to your children is through personal demonstration.

WHAT’S ART GOT TO DO WITH IT?

Our central goal at Real Science-4-Kids is to assist youngsters in discovering joy and passion in the wonderful scientific world. The field of science is exciting! It’s growing every day with new breakthroughs and innovations. Careers in the science field are increasing at such a fast pace that there aren’t enough professionals to fill open positions. The education system is scrambling to incorporate an ever-increasing number of STEM programs to fill the demand in the workplace. With all of this focus on science, technology, engineering, and math, art is being relegated to the corner like a worn-out pair of ice skates on a sunny day — irrelevant and unnecessary. But, is art really either of those things?

What’s art got to do with it, anyway?

Is art important to science? As we educate our children and find the hours of the day continuing to be gobbled up by more and more math and science, is it really important to make time for the arts as well? J. H. van ’t Hoft — the first Nobel Prize winner in chemistry— thought so when he proposed that imagination is directly correlated to various creative activities outside science. Was his view isolated, or is there evidence of creativity and art throughout scientific history?

Most people are aware of Leonardo da Vinci, one of the world’s most amazing artists. Not as many people are aware of Leonardo da Vinci, Scientist and Inventor. Contrastingly, the world of science would be much smaller without the mind of Albert Einstein, a scientific genius. But, how many people know Albert Einstein as an accomplished violinist with a love for Mozart? In his mind, art and science worked together as one harmonious element. He was quoted as saying, “I very rarely think in words at all. A thought comes, and I may try to express it in words afterwards.” His quote expresses a habit of thinking in pictures and abstracts rather than words. Art is the foundation for that development of the mind. Einstein’s son Hans said of his father, “Whenever he felt that he had come to the end of the road or into a difficult situation in his work, he would take refuge in music, and that would usually resolve all his difficulties.”

Nature and art work in harmony with one another.

Through art we see the aesthetic beauty of the world around us. Through science we discover how it all works. One is integral to the other, and neither exists alone. Earl Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, the English novelist, once said, “Art and science have their meeting point in method.”

You may be thinking that all these examples are outdated. Times have changed! Is there a fresh voice that’s more relevant to today?

How about Steve Jobs? As recently as 2011 he was quoted as saying, “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone isn’t enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.” Art has not been forgotten. It is on the minds of those leading the way in today’s technological advancement.

On one hand is science. On the other, art. When we observe the beauty of the artistic world around us through the critical lens of science, an elegant dance ensues as the fingers of those hands lace together harmoniously. As increased science education becomes essential, we need to remember that art and science are both critical parts of the same mechanism — life.

The blogger Vi Hart demonstrates some of the beautiful and natural mathematical elements found in nature. Check out this link as she discusses the discovery of the Fibonacci Sequence in everyday elements of nature.

Science Careers: What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

Children are often asked what they want to be when they grow up. Doctor, lawyer, teacher, firefighter, police officer, or veterinarian are a few of the typical answers one might expect. They excitedly draw pictures of gallant firefighters on ladders rescuing cats from trees, or detail rosy classrooms filled with perfectly behaving children. Pretend playtime is filled with ailing stuffed animals treated for all sorts of maladies —until children learn that the majority of veterinary work involves spaying, neutering, and euthanizing animals. The sparkly glitz of being a veterinarian might fade to a dim shimmer with that realization. Attention could then shift to becoming a police officer, until mom gets pulled over for speeding, that is. That’s when “police officer” gets axed from the ever-shrinking list. What is a child to do?
Such broad-brush responses imply a limited exposure to the vast catalog of available careers. Although the previously mentioned occupations are the perfect fit for some children, they aren’t right for everyone and certainly aren’t the only available choices. Children have many options such as telemarketer, odor tester, or gravedigger (you really don’t want to fall asleep on that job). However, most children don’t actively pursue those options either. With further exposure to the intriguing world of career selection, they may choose to be a cartographer, journeyman, or geoscientist, though.

“What if I don’t want to be an odor tester, Mom?”

Science Careers

The field of science is teeming with fascinating career choices that extend far beyond a lab coat and Petri dish. Unfortunately, most science careers tend to get lumped under the umbrella of “scientist,” and their individualistic natures are lost to young students. Real Science-4-Kids wants to help ignite a passion for all avenues of science in the young minds of today’s students. Use our careers-focused blog posts as resources to aid in the discovery of available science careers and help future scientists find the right fit for themselves. We dive into the wonderful world of science careers and invite you along for the journey. Each of our career posts highlight a different field of science.
One of these posts just might discuss the option your child has been searching for. The same child who isn’t necessarily thrilled about the prospect of treating dogs who have fleas might jump at the chance to observe territorial behaviors of bluebirds in their natural habitat. Such is the life of an ecologist. Does your child want to help people without having to work in a hospital? Perhaps the budding field of genetics is more enticing. If your student likes the idea of being a firefighter but would rather work in the mountains, he or she might want to consider being a conservation scientist who deals with forest fire management and prevention. Upcoming blog editions will dive into careers like neurobiology — the study of the brain and nervous system.
In the meantime, check out this amazing resource: http://coolsciencecareers.rice.edu/ . This program is provided through Rice University and will take your student on an occupational tour that can help find a science career suited to your student’s interests. Have fun engaging with the website and then let us know what you think in the comments section.

BACK TO SCHOOL ESSENTIALS YOU WON’T FIND ON A SHOPPING LIST

If you’re like some, you’ve got both feet firmly planted in summer break — adorned with goggles, water balloons, a good book, and a steadfast denial that school is right around the corner. Or, maybe you’re one of those families that actually loves school and, in fact, has never stopped teaching long enough to notice the ‘break’ in summer break. Regardless of your current summer disposition, it’s a good idea to pause and take stock of your needs for the coming year. It’s the chance to assess what has worked, purge ideas and materials that have proven ineffective or superfluous, and make new goals to help streamline education. It’s also time to start planning your supplies list.

Many school essentials don’t come in wrapped packages with price tag attached. Those essentials can sometimes be set aside or forgotten about while we make itemized lists of pencils, notebooks, glue sticks, and rulers. It’s important to remember the true fundamentals that make up the back to school must-haves.

 

PURGE YOUR CURRICULUM LIBRARY OF UNUSED AND UNNECESSARY MATERIAL

Odds are you have it on your shelf. Most families do. It’s that old textbook you bought three years ago that didn’t work out like you thought it would. Now you’re saving it “just in case” you have the need for some supplemental material someday. Time passes. The stack of material grows and is left unused. The only thing it has managed to do is create clutter and guilt as you watch it gather dust.

Summer is the perfect time to condense and streamline curriculum for the coming year. Find one curriculum for each subject that works for your family and stick to it. Sell or donate items that don’t work for you. Who knows? They might be just the thing another family is looking for. The bottom line when it comes to curriculum is — less is more. You will be more efficient, organized, and stress-free when there are fewer materials being juggled.

 

MAKE EDUCATION CULTIVATE INQUISITIVENESS, IMAGINATION, AND A LOVE FOR LEARNING

Children are born with the same inquisitive nature required of scientists. As infants, they start off

examining and testing the physical properties of the world around them. Their laboratory is found on the kitchen, bathroom, and living room floors as they touch, squeeze, and lick anything within arm’s reach.  They watch a cup fall from the highchair…time and time again…gathering data with each drop.

Children start to make connections and form hypotheses of expected outcomes as they pull the ever-patient dog’s fur, and then decide to move toward the temperamental cat. When the outcomes are different than expected, children are able to adjust their methodology for future recall. Pull the dog’s fur: yes. Pull the cat’s fur: NO! When fostered, these inquisitive childhood moments lead to innovative adult creativity.

Imaginative childhood play should be a part of the curriculum, not a scheduled break from it. The most notable innovators that have changed the world with their ideas were ones that dreamed the imaginary, and then worked to make it real. Unimaginative scientists aren’t at the forefront of technological advancement. The dreamers are. Allow children to make creativity and imagination a part of everyday education.

 

PRAISE STUDENTS FOR THEIR EFFORT AND NOT THEIR INTELLIGENCE

This recommendation may seem contrary to some of the recent advice you’ve heard. Saying someone is smart certainly doesn’t sound negative. It may even sound like a compliment to tell a child they’re smart after a job well done. When children learn to associate intelligence with outcomes, however, they may lose the drive to take on new challenges or persevere in the face of failure. Why take the chance of appearing “dumb” if you should fail?

Consistently telling someone they are smart can also lead children to believe that intelligence is all they need. They write off the importance of effort and hard work. Young children who are routinely told they are smart in the early grades might stop putting forth effort, believing intelligence is enough. Later, when difficult subjects are faced in the middle years, they are not accustomed to the type of effort required to conquer tougher challenges and can conclude they really aren’t intelligent after all.

Developing relationships of encouragement rather than merely praising innate ability is the key to performance. Engage a child’s thought process, encourage his or her ingenuity at problem solving, and praise persistence. When children fail, dust off their knees and help them fine-tune plans for another attempt. Encouragement for continued attempts will garner the results you want in the long run.

 

DON’T TAKE THE BAD DAYS PERSONALLY

Even when you’ve had a great start and things seem to be going well, there will come a time when your attempt fails miserably. It’s important to remember that you are not unique in your failure. Everyone fails at some point. Don’t take it personally. A bad day or two doesn’t make you a poor educator. It makes you human, just like your students.

When you hit a rough patch, perhaps it’s time to switch things up for a day or two. Find an activity in a different setting to help push the reset button. Assess your goals to make sure they are realistic. Most importantly, don’t forget to follow the advice you’re dishing out to your kiddos. Dust off your knees and fine-tune your next attempt.

 

COLLABORATE WITH OTHER PARENTS AND THE ONLINE COMMUNITY

There are so many resources available today. One such is Pinterest. Here are some wonderful Pinterest boards we found that offer educational ideas and parental support.

 

Do you have other back-to-school essentials that weren’t included in this post? Share them with melinda@gravitaspublication.com and we will add them to our list. Real Science 4 Kids loves the collaboration of great ideas.

 

A Word From Dr. Keller

When Dr. Keller began homeschooling her children, she quickly spotted a deficiency in the available curriculum for her professional specialty, science. Some might have viewed the situation with a spirit of resignation. Dr. Keller, however, saw it as a challenge and a call to action. She identified what needed to be improved and then worked to produce a more effective curriculum. Because of her tenacity and logic, thousands of students have reaped the benefit of an intelligent and innovative approach to science. The result of her years-long labor of love is the Real Science-4-Kids program available today.

So, what actually makes the Real Science-4-Kids program so unique and effective? Don’t all science curriculums cover the same material? To answer these questions, and more, I went to the source and spoke with Dr. Keller.

 

What is the overarching logic behind Real Science-4-Kids (RS4K)?

The RS4K series of books is designed to expose kids, especially young kids, to ‘real’ science. When I say ‘real’ science, I’m referring to the mechanisms and terminology actual scientists utilize.

While teaching science to my own kids, I noticed that none of the books written for younger kids even remotely covered the topics found in college texts. And yet, the upper level college texts are the most interesting.  Additionally, none of the younger students’ books addressed ‘real’ science terms and concepts. Processes were simplified to a point where there was no longer a connection with higher level study. These simplified science books were completely lacking in chemistry and physics—the foundations for all science.

I thought, “what if I write a kid’s book that introduces kids to ‘real’ chemistry, ‘real’ physics, ‘real’ biology, and so on. How might this change the way kids learn and grow to love science?” So, that’s what I did. The program started off small, and has grown into the extensive library that it is today.

 

What are some key distinctions between your strategy and the traditional methodology?

My approach to teaching science is the opposite of traditional methods. Most elementary and middle school science books teach science topics, like ‘how plants grow’ or ‘our solar system.’ The ‘real’ science concepts, i.e., those actually used in the science field, aren’t taught until high school.

My strategy is to introduce the ‘real’ science concepts from the beginning at an appropriate pace for each level. Each year the program builds on the initial foundation and additional information is added.  Science topics are classified and taught within their correct area of scientific study. So, ‘how plants grow’ becomes photosynthesis and cell biology. ‘Our solar system’ becomes the chemistry of stars and the physics of planetary orbits.

What makes your teaching techniques and strategies more effective than others?

Having a logical and sequential approach to teaching science really works. We recognize and use this process in language arts all the time. When kids learn to read, we understand that they need the foundations of language before they can master a complicated novel. They first learn the alphabet and then put the letters together to form words. Next, we teach them to use those words to form sentences which are then strung together to form paragraphs. Those paragraphs eventually form a novel. For a child to master reading comprehension, he or she must first master the basics of language.

The same is true for science. For a child to truly understand the science behind how a plant grows, they must first master the basics of science – atoms, molecules, chemical reactions, energy, habitats, biomes, the structure of the earth, astronomical objects, etc.

How does this program address developmental pacing in terms of learning goals?

I set up the program from a reversed viewpoint. I asked, “What would a high school student need to know to master college science? What would a middle school student need to know to master high school science? What would an elementary school student need to know to master middle school science?”

The basic concepts of science are broken down to a fundamental level so that a first grader can master a few key aspects of science. I don’t overload students with material at this stage. It isn’t necessary or beneficial. The program offers just enough to get them interested without making it complicated.  Those initial concepts will be built upon in second grade, and so on. As learning capacity increases, so does the material.

Why do you think this method is more conducive to overall learning and retention?

In a book by the National Academy Press, “How People Learn”, authors Bransford, Brown, and Cocking discovered three essential features that promote learning.

“To develop competence in any area of inquiry, students must: 1) have a deep foundation of factual knowledge, 2) understand facts and ideas in a conceptual framework, and 3) organize knowledge in ways that facilitate retrieval and application.”

I didn’t know about this book when I first started writing Real Science-4-Kids, but it validates everything I was trying to achieve. RS4K works because it’s organized. It presents the facts that are relevant to ‘real’ science within a conceptual framework that systematically builds on concepts as the child progresses.

Can you explain the difference between the two types of courses you offer, Building Blocks and the Focus On Series?

The Focus On Series is a semester-long unit study that encourages kids to focus on one subject at a time. It’s offered for an age range of either elementary or middle school. The Focus On Series is based on a ‘block’ teaching method, where focused learning is condensed to a shorter ‘block’ of time. It was purposed for those parents and teachers who want to sequence their own science program, and for those who want a solid introductory level science course. The Focus On Series is also beneficial for a student with an inherent interest in one particular area of science, since one subject at a time is presented.

The Building Block Series is a year-long program that integrates the 5 core disciplines of science into one book for each grade. It’s based on a nourishing upward-spiral teaching method where disciplines are repeatedly visited and built upon over months and across grades. This method was chosen because it is proven to lead to better long-term mastery of facts and concepts. Spiral learning is effective for all learners, including struggling learners, and is the first research-based recommendation in a practice guide from the U. S. Department of Education’s Institute of Educational Sciences (Pashler et al., 2007).

 

The Building Block Series introduces the foundational concepts starting in first grade, and then builds on those concepts each year. Science is unique because the disciplines are so interlaced. Teaching one subject requires a foundational understanding of another. This program is specifically designed to address the overlapping of disciplines and, as a result, it will increase the depth of student comprehension. Parents and teachers who want a year-long program that has the optimal sequencing outlined for them, with information being introduced according to appropriate spacing guidelines, should choose this option. By the time students have finished 8th grade science, they will have a solid foundation in all of the 5 core science subjects which will make high school science easy for them.

 

How do the experiments in the Laboratory Workbooks help kids learn science?

All the experiments are based on real science inquiry and teach kids how to follow the scientific method. Each experiment delves deeper into one or more concepts covered in the text. Mixing laundry starch and white glue is just a meaningless demonstration until you incorporate the chemistry and physics of polymers. Going on a nature walk becomes more than just an outing. It becomes immensely educational when you can imagine a habitat and how it fits into the ecosystem and the greater biome.

Why is the Real Science-4-Kids curriculum a good choice for schools as well as homeschool families?

This program is designed around students’ educational needs, whether a student is homeschooled or attends a public, private, or charter school. All of the materials, lab workbooks, and teacher’s manuals can be adapted to either a home or school setting.

What is your vision for RS4K?

Every time I see a passion for science ignite in a student using the RS4K program, my vision is realized. This program has the potential to unlock scientific curiosity as kids explore the real world with real experiments at just the right pace.

My ultimate hope and vision is that through learning ‘real’ science, a new generation of problem solvers will emerge. There would be no greater reward than to witness RS4K students move on to solve real-world problems.

As the person behind the Real Science-4-Kids blog, I don’t normally insert myself into the writing. The blog is, after all, a representation of the company. I’ll break from the norm for a moment to share with you the idea that I haven’t always worked for Real Science-4-Kids. I was first a homeschooling parent who happened to discover a product in an online review and fell in love with it— because it really worked. Real Science-4-Kids is a curriculum and a company that is ‘real’ in every way.  The material is thoughtful, comprehensive, and interesting. The methodology is sound and logical. But, the people behind the company name are the ‘real’ gems in my book. With confidence I can report the quality of the company and the product they offer.

Do you have a specific question that wasn’t answered above? Shoot us an email at office@gravitaspublications.com and we would be happy to answer it for you.