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Diane Flynn Keith...

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The Secret to Teaching Science

Science is one subject that many parents and teachers are afraid to touch! They are needlessly worrying because it’s easy to help develop a child’s curious scientific mind, even if you don’t have all the answers.

When should you start teaching science? High school is way too late. Start now in the preschool years. It doesn’t take an advanced degree or curriculum to enrich your child’s life with science! Anyone can do it!

Start with a science shelf. Try to make some space for a science shelf. Put a few basic tools on the shelf, such as a magnifying lens, flashlight, ruler, magnet, and a small thrift store scale. I also like having a terrarium available for those times when you want to watch something living for awhile. Don’t get fancy – an old leaky aquarium from the garage or a thrift shop will suit your purposes!

My family had two especially memorable terrarium experiences. The tomato worm that unexpectedly burrowed into the dirt emerged as a moth many months later. Another time we were watching a couple of snails that we’d collected a few weeks before when tiny baby snails started to appear from the dirt as they crawled up the wall of the terrarium. Overnight, we went from three snails to hundreds, and they were fascinating! We didn’t need curriculum and we certainly had no plan, but watching it all unfold before our eyes was very exciting!

Encourage your child to add whatever he wants to his science space. Perhaps he’ll start with a rock, leaf, or feather that he finds on his daily walk. A young child will put his science area to good use and it will soon become his little museum. Remember, there is no one right way to do this, and the goal is to encourage your child’s creative mind.

Add some books. You may want to purchase some introductory science books for your child to refer to (ex: Eyewitness Books, Dorling Kindersley and Usborne), but most can come from the library. Visit the non-fiction children’s section every time you go to the library. Unless your child specifically asks for a topic, any will do. Just browse the aisles looking for a book with good pictures and easy-to-understand writing, and then set it out with the regular story books. Because the subject is so interesting, your children may want to have you read the science books as often as the story books! You’ll know it’s science, but all they know is that they are enjoying the story.

Then add experiences. If there is a museum handy, get a pass so you can go often so that your child can observe without being rushed. Check to see if your museum participates in the ASTC Travel Passport Program. If they do, you might be able to visit another science museum for free when you go on vacation!

Try making play dough, adding water to cornstarch, or watching what happens when you add a drop of food coloring to water. Plant seeds. Sprout an avocado or sweet potato. Start a worm bin. Set up an ant farm. Weigh things, compare, measure. Or just go for daily walks, even if it’s raining. The important thing is to provide daily experiences for your child. You don’t even need to point things out. Who would have known science was this easy?

No curriculum needed. Did you notice I left curriculum off the list? It’s not needed, and honestly, I think it detracts from the learning experience. Just let your children explore, touch, and observe. They’ll do the rest! That’s what preschool science looks like. Doesn’t it look like fun? Enjoy it and rest assured that you are building a strong educational foundation for your young child.

*Karen Taylor provides regular homeschooling information and mentoring on Facebook, and she is the Directory of Cedar Life Academy, a Private School Satellite Program (PSP) for homeschoolers in California.

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