As a first grade teacher, standardized reading and math tests are the basis for my yearly evaluations. I am passionate about instilling a love of these subjects, and their foundations, by actually fostering a love of science, social studies, history, and the world. I know that sounds like a lot, but science is everywhere and it's so easy! In this two part series, I hope to provide you with some ideas to support your scientists at home, and also globally!
Young scientists need exposure to who scientists are. They need books ABOUT scientists. Over a decade ago when I started college, a professor asked us to draw a scientist. You may already know where this is going, but we all drew old, white men with white hair, glasses, and a lab coat. When I ask first graders to do this at the beginning of the year, some still draw the stereotypical "scientist" we're used to, but many don't. They draw women swimming in the ocean with a notepad like Miss Frizzel or teams of people building robots. By the end of the year, EVERY student is drawing themselves doing these things. They do also need nonfiction books in whatever they are interested in (animals, dinosaurs, bugs, storms, raising a pet, building Legos, trucks, video games, music, sports, school, etc). And don't get these subjects confused as things only boys are interested in. Trust me.... you don't want to pigeon hole your brilliant daughters with the idea that the world around them is for boys. Children know they can be scientists, but examples of scientists who look like them in non fiction books, fiction books, and yes- even Netflix, are a great stepping stone to getting them to believe in themselves and to explore. Learn with them about Miss Frizzle from the magic school bus, Marie Curie, George Washington Carver, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Mae Jemison, Jack from The Magic Treehouse, Steve Jobs, Jane Goodall, Ada Twist Scientist, Rosie Reverie Engineer, or your local scientists. The Ada Twist and Rosie Reverie fiction books are especially great for inspiring young girls. You can also get the accompanying "project books" as a parent idea guide in a kid friendly format!
Speaking of which, definitely encourage young scientists to observe, take notes in a special notebook, and to label the parts of things!
Kids ask questions. All. The. Time. And as frustrating as it is, it's because they are becoming scientists. Encourage them to write their questions down, look them up online, go to the library, find non fiction books, etc. Questions are good and the basis of all scientific inquiry, so don't squash it! Use it!
With all the technology available (and yes, I encouraged using technology above) it's important to find time to unplug and let kids have imaginative play. Give them a box and let them imagine it's a rocket ship or robot or whatever they come up with. It's totally ok to give them makers and let them design it! (Check out the picture book "not a box"). They can use blocks, cans, bottles, paper towel rolls, and any other things around the house you were going to recycle, to come up with their own inventive ideas. Legos are always a popular and wonderful idea, which works on fine motor skills as well! Let kids make, build, and imagine. They won't be "bored" for long!
With imaginative play, remember to send kids outside. They can look for bugs, play sports, go on a nature walk to look for leaves, do leaf rubbings, sort rocks, find icicles, or break open ice blocks for a frozen treasure hunt
For a project, consider planting a garden and all the research, observation, time, and care that goes into it. If you don't have space or budget for a full garden, try a hanging basket for strawberries or tomatoes!
In the next series I will discuss more about what you can do beyond your home. Just remember to always value their questions and use it as a chance to dig deeper. Also, you don't need a fancy science kit. Science is the world around it, and it should be explored authentically! If you have any questions, please reach out to me!
The kids tees in these images can be found here.