Tips for nurturing a child’s love of science

Children are naturally inquisitive. Adults can help youth nurture their curiosity and budding love of science through programs such as 4-H, which offers easy projects that will engage young people in science.

Kids building a snowman

My 2-year-old son says, “Snowman…fall down!” His 6-year-old brother shares that he can make his scooter go faster around a corner by leaning. My 8-year-old son asks, “How does medicine move in my body?” after he receives an immunization. What they are really doing is learning about science through inquiry or questions. Children are naturally inquisitive. As adults, we can help the youth in our lives nurture their curiosity and their budding love of science. It is just that simple.

The 4-H program can help children build their science and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills because it focuses on engaging youth and adults in hands-on learning. Youth in 4-H learn through experience, are encouraged to ask questions, use critical thinking and use problem-solving skills to discover answers to their questions. Their confidence increases when they learn they can solve problems. 

According to the National 4-H website, “4-H programs provide 4-H youth the opportunity to learn Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) through fun, hands-on activities and projects.”

There are some simple steps you can take to help children in your life develop a love of STEM.

  • Instead of explaining or telling youth why something is happening, encourage them to experience, observe and question what is going on in the world around them. Help youth understand it is OK to not always find the answers to a question.
  • Encourage youth to think like a scientist. Ask questions that lead youth to explain what they think is happening. Encourage them to make predictions about what they expect to occur.
  • Urge youth to record their experiences and let them experiment, test and explore to discover if their assumptions are correct.
  • Help youth learn to communicate and explain, using their observations and evidence, their thinking to others.

For younger children, consider exploring science through fun and easy projects that can be done at home or at a 4-H club meeting. The Michigan 4-H Inquiring Minds Want to Know: Science Activities for Young Minds website has terrific activity ideas for adults working with youth. If you are working with older youth, visit the Michigan 4-H Teaching Science When You Don’t Know Diddly-Squat website for some fun and entertaining STEM activities you can easily do at home. If you are looking for activities focused on 4-H animal projects, the Michigan 4-H Animal Science Anywhere lessons cover a wide range of topics.

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to create a community excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 4-H STEM programming seeks to increase science literacy, introducing youth to the experiential learning process that helps them to build problem-solving, critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Youth who participate in 4-H STEM are better equipped with critical life skills necessary for future success.

To learn more about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth in STEM literacy programs, read our 2018 Impact Report: “Equipping Young People for Success Through Science Literacy.”

To learn more about MSU Extension, visit the MSU Extension website. To learn more about 4-H and Extension opportunities in Alcona County, stop by our Harrisville office at 320 S. State St. Harrisville, MI 48740, or visit us online at our Alcona County MSU Extension Facebook page or Alcona County Extension office page.

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