Inspiring A Love of Science

 

Wonder Drives Knowledge

As a matter of fact, Randy Bell, former program coordinator for science education at the Curry School of Education (now a dean at Oregon State University), suggests that children be allowed plenty of time to explore before being introduced to the facts. "When children can explore a concept first,"says Bell, they become more engaged and able to think for themselves when the idea is pursued further."

Even very young children can surprise adults with their enthusiasm for scientific learning and can soak up ideas like sponges, says Nancy Newman, an outreach educator with the Virginia Museum of Natural History. She says science experiences are important for young children. "Finding out about textures, amounts, weight, length, opposites, magnification and life cycles all help children explore, develop vocabulary, think about possibilities, understand there are multiple answers sometimes and that a scientist asks questions and tries to find solutions."

The World Is a Science Classroom

Both Bell and Newman suggest getting in tune with nature as a means for introducing science. Participating in a bird walk, feeling the wind, listening to the leaves in trees and kicking up dry leaves on the ground all help children to be more aware of their surrounding. "Becoming an observer of nature helps with observing the world in general," says Newman. "However," she notes, "parents need to get over their reluctance to pick up a worm, to watch a bee drinking nectar of gathering pollen, watch a snake slither by or hold a toad. They must set examples. Fears, like prejudices, are learned from adults."

A child's innate need to explore and discover will inevitably lead to experimentation. Whether indoors or out, youve probably noticed that even the youngest of children will mix and pour, blend and stir. They will discover that water almost always flows freely, whereas sand only flows when dry.

The following projects offer the opportunity to experiment with some simple science concepts, using items you probably have around the house. Make every effort to allow as much hands-on experimenting as possible with these projects. Sure, there may be a few spills if you let the kids do the mixing, but the learning that happens by allowing them to decide "how much" and "when" is just as valuable as the science itself. Some of the simpler projects included are suitable even for preschool-aged children. Of course, when using sharp instruments or matches, caution should be used and there should always be an adult on hand.

Water Bottle Wonder
Materials:
• small nail
• plastic water bottle
• water
• food coloring
Using a small nail, poke three or four holes around a plastic water bottle, about 1 inch from the bottom. (Heating the tip of the nail will make this easier.) Fill each bottle with colored water, and then replace the cap. Set the bottles out in a clear casserole dish and encourage your kids to investigate. They will quickly find that opening the cap (thereby letting air into the bottle) allows the water to flow freely from the holes. When capped, it stops.

Tornado in a Bottle
Materials:
• drill with 3/8-inch bit
• two 2-liter bottles
• water
• glue
Make a tornado using two 2-liter soda bottles. Drill a 3/8-inch hole in both bottle caps, making sure that they are aligned. Glue caps together, taping to reinforce. Screw this double lid onto a bottle full of water. Invert the other empty bottle, and screw onto other end. To make the tornado flow, turn the connected bottles upside down and swirl the bottles in a circular motion a few times. As the water from the top bottle escapes to the bottom bottle, the water will create a funnel that looks quite like a tornado.

 

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