When we think of science many people immediately think of the periodic table, long-winded formulas and difficult-to-read textbooks. At the important primary school level, science lessons should be interactive and less theory intensive. That is what makes learning fun for kids and encourages them to be more actively engaged in the lesson and thus comprehend and retain the subject at hand.
In this article, we will discuss what is science for a child, why it is so important and how to teach your child science-related concepts in an interactive way that encourages them to ask questions to nurture their curiosity and knowledge retention.
Children learn best through hands-on learning and practical demonstrations. Science encourages experimental learning, which helps develop a child’s critical thinking and problem-solving abilities, whilst also making learning fun and exciting for kids. Encouraging your child to engage in STEM-related activities will help instil a love for learning and encourage self-motivation in their studies.
The Scientific Method
The Scientific Method can be defined as steps that one should take when conducting an experiment to help establish the facts and outcomes of the experiment. This method is widely used by scientists and, simply explained, it involves:
- Making initial observations
- Coming up with a question based on the observations
- Developing a hypothesis (or prediction) to go along with the question
- Experimenting and testing the hypothesis
- Gathering and recording results of tests and experiments and drawing conclusions
- Sharing and discussing results
Whilst initially you may think that these steps may be a bit too advanced for younger children, they are a great foundation to start learning science experimentation concepts and developing key observation and analytical skills. Primary school children can be steered in the right direction and be trained to think scientifically to prepare them for later years. Creating these learning foundations will greatly enhance their abilities to understand, grasp and retain science-related concepts in the future.
Questions to ask to nurture curiosity
When conducting a science experiment with your child, it also helps to ask key questions along the experimentation process to help identify the outcomes of the experiment. The following questions should be asked before, during and after an experiment.
- Before: What do you think will happen?
- During: What is happening?
- After: What actually happened compared to what you thought would happen?
Practical examples (folding an aeroplane)
Let’s consider the simple practical example of making paper aeroplanes. When engaging in this activity, get your child to follow these steps using the scientific method;
- Making initial observations: Some methods of folding the aeroplane create more air traction than other methods. Consider which method of folding an aeroplane is the best.
- Coming up with a question based on the observations: Get the child to create two aeroplanes using two different folding techniques and ask questions based on their initial observations. E.g.: do smaller planes fly further or perhaps aeroplanes with bigger wings will gain more air traction?
- Developing a hypothesis (or prediction) to go along with the question: At this step, the child can make predictions about which folding method they think will be more successful.
- Experimenting and testing the hypothesis: This is the fun part! Once the aeroplanes are folded, then test your two aeroplanes side by side. It is best to conduct a few tests to ensure that there are limited external factors that will affect the outcome like wind or human error.
- Gathering and recording results of tests and experiments and drawing conclusions: Measure the distance that each aeroplane travelled and record the results over multiple flight attempts.
- Sharing and discussing results: Analyse the results to determine which folding method was more successful and discuss potential ways to improve the folding process. What factors do you think contributed to the one aeroplane being more successful? Did one have bigger wings or was it lighter etc?
Whilst conducting the experiment, pause throughout the process to ask 3 important questions:
- During the experiment: Which aeroplane do you think will fly the longest distance?
- What is happening: What happens in flight? Which aeroplane seems to fly the best?
- What actually happened vs. what you thought would happen? Were the results the same as what you predicted?
Once a child becomes familiar with the basics of the scientific method, they are well on their way to an enjoyable and successful scientific learning future. Remember, scientific experimentation is all around us and doesn’t require a laboratory to conduct an experiment. Conducting science experiments in a controlled environment or in your everyday life helps nurture intellectual curiosity whilst providing children with the practice of acquiring new ways of asking questions and understanding the world around them.