Science can be fun

In today's high-tech society it is important that children develop an interest in science at an early age and see that science is a part of our lives. By becoming comfortable with science at an early age, children can reap many long term benefits. Getting children interested in science does not take a lot of time and effort. Their natural curiosity will ease the way. Making it fun is the key element.

The learning process in children happens through play. During play the world is not so threatening. Kids feel safe, secure and capable. They explore on their own. There is an old Chinese saying: I hear and I forget.

I see and I remember I do and I understand. Information and knowledge gained from hands- on activities and self discovery remains in the long term memory. There is no need for a special place or equipment for teaching science to kids. Most of the materials and equipment needed can be obtained in home, school, grocery store or local hardware store. Science activity can be carried out with a single kid or group of kids.

It can be carried out whenever you want or wherever you want. For example when there is nothing to do and kids are bored. When the weather outside is not friendly. It can be carried out in the kitchen, in the garden, nature hikes, beach trips etc. Science experiments in our house started in the kitchen.

One day when I was baking cookies, my kids were helping. Curious as usual, they started asking questions. "Why do we add sugar?" "Why do we add eggs?" "Why do we have to add baking powder?" At that moment a bulb lighted in my head.

We made some cookies without baking powder and compared. This became a hobby. We started experimenting with lot of things, sometimes purely on impulses. But we sure enjoyed that time. Some examples that quickly come to mind are: a) one day when we were folding laundry, some clothes had static. They made small cracking noises and stuck.

We had fun learning and experimenting with lot of other things that produce static electricity. b) When we had gone to the beach we started talking about the sea/ocean water being salty and how salt is extracted from the sea water. Kids brought some sea water back home and placed it in sunlight in a shallow tray. In 2-3 days the water evaporated and they collected the salt crystals. The satisfaction in self discovery is incomparable.

Without any prompting from me kids also experimented if saltwater freezes faster or tap water. Looking at their interest, pretty soon me and my friend got together and started doing planned experiments with our children in a group setting. Kids enjoyed them and looked forward to the experiment days. Volcanoes and slimes were a lot of fun.

When we did an experiment on coloring daisies, (white daisies if placed in colored water, pick up that color. In a few hours their petals start showing the color in the water) it did not end there. Pretty soon more flowers got experimented on and then came the question "Why some flowers pick up colors faster than the others?" One day while we were weeding in the garden we had an amusing finding. There were lots of Lady Bugs on one particular type of weed.

That led us to the information on how and why certain bugs favor certain plants or animals. Similarly different kinds of rocks found in the garden piqued kids interest and we ended up doing a project on rocks. I was happy to see that I had achieved what I was aiming for: 1) Questioning of observed events leading to finding information. 2) Promotion of independent thinking and reasoning process in the versatile young minds. This first step "Science is fun" can be followed by the next more exciting step, where kids learn that "Science is also an adventure and challenge." It often requires some detective work and it requires learning of a methodical step by step approach to solve problems.

This approach is called "The scientific method." The steps in a scientific method can be roughly outlined as follows. 1) If you have to solve a problem start by collecting data. Read books, talk to people, and make observations.

2) Brainstorm- Spend time looking over and understanding the information collected. Have discussions if you are working in a team. 3) Make predictions. 4) Design and carry out experiments. 5) Analyze your results and derive conclusions.

It is a lot more fun to do these activities in a group or as a team. Parents or friends can be very good companions. As kids grow up participation in "science fairs" can also bring a good learning experience.

So parents get involved with your kids science activities and share with them the excitement of being a scientist and an explorer. Kids will know that science can be fun. Once they get interested they will keep thinking, investigating and inventing for ever. Dr.

Kanchan Bodas Editor .

By: Dr. Kanchan Bodas

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