Inquiring minds want to know: Science for young children

Teaching children about science can be very daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. You can begin today just by saying, “Let’s find out!” and explore alongside your child.

We can use children's natural curiosity to encourage their skills as budding scientists. Photo credit: Pixabay.
We can use children's natural curiosity to encourage their skills as budding scientists. Photo credit: Pixabay.

The first step in the scientific process is to ask a question. According to Michigan State University Extension, children are naturally curious. They are willing to see the world from a new perspective and ask questions. Why? What if? How come? As adults, we are often tempted to step in and provide the answer. However, instead of telling them why, we can encourage their skill building as budding scientists by answering with, “let’s find out” and taking the time to help them explore their world.

When children engage in science experiences they are gaining new knowledge, learning about the process of exploration and developing important life skills. More than ever, science education is critical to the future success of our children in their careers and life. Yet, only 18 percent of American high school students are graduating proficient in science and only 5 percent of college graduates hold science related degrees. In the face of this startling shortage of scientists, 4-H set a goal nationally of engaging a million young people in science by 2013, a goal they were able to meet a year early!

Research tells us that science education is key to success in our society. Key business leaders in America report that in order for children to be successful adults in today’s 21st century society they need to be:

  • Able to analyze, synthesize and evaluate information
  • Able to effectively communicate with others
  • Proficient in science, mathematics, computer and technical skills, foreign languages as well as history, geography, and global awareness
  • Capable of collaboratively working in culturally diverse settings
  • Leaders who see projects through to completion
  • Responsible decision makers, and
  • Ethical individuals (Nidds & McGerald)

Science can seem to be a very daunting topic to explore with young children, but in actuality, it is simple. Your kitchen presents a wealth of great science experiments, from basic chemistry like mixing baking soda and vinegar, to experiments like figuring out how to make a tarnished penny shiny again. Taking the time to say to a child, “Let’s find out!” is the first step to teaching science; there is no need to be afraid to jump in to science education!

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