Elementary school children can be introduced gradually to nine basic scientific concepts--ones that all scientists learn. These concepts are listed at the end of this handbook. The concepts provide a framework into which scientific facts can be placed.
Here are three of these concepts that you can easily introduce to your children at home or in the community. The activities described in the next two sections are based on these concepts, as are many other simple science-related projects.
Scientists like to find patterns and classify natural occurrences. We can encourage our children to think about objects according to their size or color--for instance, rocks, hills, mountains, and planets. Or they can observe leaves or insects and group the ones that are similar.
The natural world changes continually. Some objects change rapidly; some at a rate too slow to observe. We can encourage our children to look for changes in things:
- What happens to breakfast cereal when we pour milk on it?
- What happens over time when a plant isn't watered or exposed to proper sunlight?
- What changes can be reversed? Once water is turned into ice cubes, can it be turned back into water? Yes. But if an apple is cut into slices, can the slices be changed back into the whole apple?
Even very young children know that there are many kinds of objects. One thing to do is help your child explore and investigate a pond. Within and around a single pond (depending on the size and location of the pond), there may be tremendous diversity: insects, birds, fish, frogs, turtles, other water creatures, and maybe some mammals. Looking at a pond is a great way to learn about the habits, life cycles, and feeding patterns of different organisms.
The early years of elementary school are a good time to start teaching children scientific ethics. We should tell them how important it is to be accurate about their observations. They need to know it's all right to make mistakes--we all make mistakes, and we can learn from them. But explain that important discoveries are made only if we are willing and able to correct our mistakes.
Help your children understand that we can't always take someone else's word for something. That's why it's important to find out for ourselves.