With virtual learning and WFH still happening in many areas, it’s more important than ever to engage children with science by using everyday activities. Visits to a local science museum or zoo are great ways to showcase different aspects of science to children, but when socially distancing, it can be challenging. Instead of focusing on taking children somewhere to learn about science, look for areas around your house or neighborhood to engage them in science-based activities. Science is everywhere in the world around us; all we have to do is open our eyes to see how deeply involved it is in our everyday activities.
- Count how many objects in a room use electricity
Numerous people helped with the early discoveries and further developments of electricity, but in 1752, Benjamin Franklin made his scientific breakthrough on electricity when he used a key and kite during a storm. For children to understand the importance of electricity, they need to comprehend how much we use it in our daily lives. Have children count the number of items requiring electricity in a room and then talk about Franklin’s discovery and why it’s so important in our lives today.
- Play a sport for range of motion and physics
Not only does playing sports promote exercise, but learning the scientific processes behind athletics will help exercise our minds. As children throw sporting balls, discuss the range of motion and the basics of physics. Playing different sports will also provide an opportunity to talk with children about the different muscle groups that are working to allow their bodies to play. For example, throwing a baseball uses multiple muscles including the pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, triceps brachii, the abdominals, the obliques, the quadriceps and the glutes.
- Study the different designs of buildings and houses
Architecture is a key part of science, so taking a drive around your city or even neighborhood will help children learn about different architectural principles. Skyscrapers need to be secure to withstand strong winds, coastal homes are often built up to withstand large hurricane waves and cliff erosion is a major issue in many coastal towns. By looking at the different designs of buildings and houses, children can learn how both science and mathematics play crucial roles in our surroundings through architectural designs. Using pencil and paper for 2-D or building blocks such as Legos for 3-D, children can try to replicate their favorite buildings (ex. skyscrapers, stadiums, even your own home!) or design their own architectural creations.
- Plant a garden to see basic biology principles in action
Planting a garden and having children observe firsthand the different processes involved is a wonderful way to learn basic biology principles in action. Whether it includes flowers or vegetation, all gardens involve children learning about photosynthesis and other important processes. Working with gardens would also be a smart way to incorporate weather patterns and forecasting into the discussion, and children could study the weather to see if their plants need watering or how the forecast would affect their efforts.
- Take an outdoor walk to study various parts of nature
To learn about nature, take children on an outdoor walk so they can see firsthand the different types of trees, plants, insects and animals. Children will learn about the different natural elements specific to their area, and it will also give children a chance to compare and contrast various habitats and environments. Many local trails and parks will already have information on local natural aspects and have signs and information posted.
- Examine any medicine your child takes
The next time a child has to take medicine or requires medical attention, spend time talking about the reasons and history behind it. For example, if a child breaks an arm, discuss how x-rays work and how a cast helps bones heal. If your child requires a vaccination, talk about the history of different vaccinations, like when Edward Jenner created the smallpox vaccination in 1796. Talking about the medical field and medicine could also help a child decide if they want to work in the medical profession one day.
- Make soap and talk about the chemical reactions
Children are constantly told to wash their hands, but few probably realize the soap is comprised of chemical reactions. Soap is a combination of fat or oil, water and an alkali, and when these ingredients are mixed together, soap begins the saponification process. Not only does soap engage children with learning about chemical processes, but it allows the discussion of germs and bacteria. Fascinatingly, soap doesn’t kill germs but removes them from our hands as we wash them.
Virtual learning does not have to be restricted to a computer or tablet during the pandemic, especially when it comes to science. By helping children engage with science through everyday activities, you can instill a lifelong love for science or at least teach them to appreciate how it’s used in the world around us. So many of our daily activities and conveniences would not be possible without science, and the many groundbreaking discoveries made by science pioneers continue to be explored and developed today.—Valerie Cox
Valerie Cox is a contributing writer for LOC Scientific. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, biking local trails and volunteering in her community.
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