Exploring the World with a Little Scientist
Kids are natural scientists.
That may be why they ask so many questions.
The questions are easier to take when you think of them as research.
Younger kids soak up science and math concepts with freakish enthusiasm, yet as they get older often lose their excitement.
Children look at scientific exploration as play, but as they get older they start to associate it with big heavy books, long worksheets and a lot of really confusing words.
What a tragedy!
We had their attention, they were listening, they were participating, they were LEARNING and then we lost it to boredom.
There is no reason why science shouldn't continue to be play. One of my favorite classes in college was Chemistry. I didn't have a love for the formula memorization, the overly excessive use of math or the 13 lb. textbook. I did have a love for the teacher who spent the first 15 minutes of each class doing an experiment. It usually included blowing something up. Once it included lighting his beard accidentally on fire. It was the only class where everyone showed up on time. He got our attention with play.
I truly believe it is that simple. We need our kids to play more. More play brings up basic scientific concepts. Exposure to basic scientific concepts brings on exploration. Exploration leads to investigation. Once they are investigating, they are completely invested in the learning.
The good news is that play is best unstructured. Leave a child with a shovel and bucket in the backyard, you will likely return to a complicated series of canals filled with muddy water or a miniature golf course complete with water hazards.
But they are just playing!
Exactly. If you dissect the play, you will be amazed at all the things they figured out to end up at their result.
My boys did build a complete 9 hole miniature golf course next to our driveway one day. It was a bit unconventional in its design and a little messy, but it was a marvel of science. They dug out the holes and in several areas had dug out a slight indentation leading up to the hole to guide the golf ball. They played with architecture with an elaborate series of pipes they had found in the garage - like an extreme marble works. They dabbled with gravity when dropping the ball from a 2 x 4 constructed ledge into the hole. They tested speed and momentum by creating one of the holes across the driveway. They experienced biology when deciding which front yard plant material could be used as a portion of the course and which needed to be pulled up and used as building material.
A word of caution. If I had sent them out to the yard to build a 9 hole golf course, it would have never happened. It is because it was their idea that it worked. It is my job as their mother to provide them with the opportunities for play.
In other words, I need to bore them so completely that they go out and find something to do.
I try and reinforce some of the concepts after the fact. When they ask about something, I try to relate it back to something they have built, experienced, or felt. I try to give them a vocabulary around what they already know.
An afternoon can change the way kids look at the world. Not bad for a day of play.
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