Understanding science translates to understanding how the world works. It’s important to help your children think like scientists, especially if you homeschool them, because thinking like a scientist improves communication skills, aids in developing patience and perseverance, and boosts problem solving and critical thinking skills. If you’re looking for ways to help your child think like a scientist, you’ve come to the right place.
- Encourage Them to Make Observations
Studying and observing objects, properties, and the world around them are important building blocks in teaching kids to think like scientists. Get your kids outside to take nature walks, explore the backyard with a magnifying glass, and compare the area during different seasons. Help them to think outside the box and look beyond the obvious. The better they become at noticing and identifying their surroundings, the more background knowledge they will have about the world around them, and the more prepared they will be to make comparisons and find creative solutions for problems.
- Build Upon Their Natural Curiosity
Kids are among the most curious creatures, which helps them to be natural scientists. Encourage them to ask questions and experiment, and provide them with opportunities to explore and investigate. Propose puzzles or problems for them to solve, introduce new experiences, and allow them to design and carry out their own investigations, with your guidance. Giving the kids the power to be curious gives them the power to solve problems and learn through authentic experiences, rather than giving them the answers.
- Be a Role Model
If you are enthusiastic about science, your kids will be, too. The worst thing you can do is be hesitant about science or complain about making a mess or taking things apart to learn how they work. Bill Nye, science educator and author, explains: “To promote scientific thinking, give kids things they can get their hands on and manipulate. Of course, you can buy the ‘latest greatest’ plastic toy with rings and squares and they’ll play with it for a little while, but try giving them a pot and a lid from the kitchen. Watch him bang on it happily trying to figure out how it fits, how it sounds, etc. There’s a big connection with what happens with your hands and reasoning when you’re young.” Give kids the space and freedom to investigate and explore, and be positive about learning science.
- Introduce and Follow the Scientific Method
While natural curiosity and exploration are important for helping your child think like a scientist, you also need to introduce and follow the scientific method so that kids have a logical way of investigating and learning about the world around them.
Make the introduction to the scientific method fun: remember, you need to be the positive role model for scientific inquiry. David Kaufman’s How to Think Like a Scientist – Thieving Space Zombie is a fun lesson for introducing the basic steps of the scientific method to kids: ask a question, make an educated guess, test the guess, review the results, and go back to step two and try again as needed. Parents, and especially those that homeschool, should use the proper terminology with students, also. For example, step two should be introduced as a hypothesis, and step three should be referred to as an experiment.
As students become more comfortable with the scientific method, encourage them to use it when making their own observations, conducting their own investigations, and experimenting.
- Teach Them About Scientific Career Paths
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) jobs are growing at almost twice the rate of non-STEM jobs so there is quite a bit of opportunity in these fields and that will likely remain true for some time to come. Often, it’s difficult to explain to kids how they’ll apply what they’re learning to their lives once they’re out of school. By teaching them about career opportunities in STEM fields, you can show them how their love of science and math will impact not only their life but the lives of those in their communities, and quite possibly people throughout the world.
So, how to get started? I love this engineering curriculum. It offers lessons for multiple age groups and multiple subjects that show kids how we build our cities, towns, and communities. It provides many opportunities for homeschooling parents to connect what their children are learning in math and science to the real world. Why do you need to know how to measure? Because it’s used to build the houses we live in! Why do you need to know about something like wind shear? Because it affects how we build our roads and bridges! I’ve enjoyed going through some of the elementary school level lessons with my daughters, and I think there’s something of interest for every kid.
- Be a Guide, Rather Than a Sage
It’s very tempting to give answers and correct children as they learn to investigate and experiment. But, it’s more important for parents to act as guides than it is for them to act as experts when helping their children think like scientists. PBS offers a few pointers to parents who are trying to develop and support their young scientists:
- Don’t answer all of your child’s questions – If you provide all of the answers, your child will not develop her own questioning ability or science thinking skills
- Listen carefully to your child – Discuss what your child is thinking and encourage him to explain his thoughts by asking questions to support their thought process
- Don’t correct your child immediately – If you correct your child, you may discourage her from asking questions or make her feel as though she is wrong before she even begins to think like a scientist. So, it is your job to help her discover facts instead of correcting her
Keep in mind that children develop at different rates. There is no magic age or time when children will think more scientifically. Encourage your child, model curiosity and the scientific method, and follow these tips, and your child will think like a scientist when they are ready.
Jamie Strand is an unashamed nerd. He teaches community college and loves spending time with his two daughters. He wants to share his love of science and math with kids today and that’s why he and a friend got together to create SciCamps.org. Jamie enjoys hiking, camping, and doing science experiments with his daughters.
**PHOTO CREDIT: Image via Pixabay by nightowl**
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