Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Science Toolbox: A Summer Guide for Parents by Shauna Davey Goldman


How many times have you heard from children, adults, or even yourself saying, “Science is boring” or “Science is hard!” But it doesn’t have to be, does it?

When you think about it, don’t we use science everyday; how boring is that?

We use science everyday to support so many things that we do. From the start of the day with a snooze of the alarm clock to the switch of the light to go to sleep – we are using science.
Being aware of science in our lives can support much more than experimenting and predicting. 

With science we can help children develop stronger skills in the areas of:
Social Emotional Skills – Including interacting with peers and solving social problems.
Physical – For instance, manipulating objects with fingers and hands and writing and drawing tools.
Language – Engaging in conversation and articulating observations or telling about another time or place.
Cognitive – Showing curiosity and motivation and making connections.
Literacy – Using stories to connect with science concepts.
Mathematics – For instance, counting, comparing and contrasting and measuring.

Flashlights are a great, tangible example of a light source for exploring light and shadow. 

So as parents, how can we introduce various science concepts to our children while keeping the learning experience intriguing, positive and fun?

As both a parent and a rookie educator, I was guilty of not being captivated by the world of science. However, while my daughter was in Preschool, I realized that science activities outdoors and indoors could make rainy/snowy days, a long weekend and summer months fly by so much faster. Together, my daughter and I explored our neighborhood by simply looking at different living things, how water moves and changes, as well as the thousands of stars in the sky.

As we all know, young children help us see things we unintentionally and intentionally have forgotten. So naturally as a parent, I let my guard down and explored the world with her all over again. My daughter and I asked each other questions and also stumbled on many questions that forced us to do additional research – so fun.
Keep in mind that you and your child will be teaching and learning from each other. Subsequently, there may be times that you don’t readily have answers to questions asked of your child. However, what better way for you to foster the opportunity for further investigation by saying “I don’t know, let’s find out!”

As parents, we have to remember, when children ask questions, our responses support their curiosity and knowledge of things around them and the natural world.  Therefore, when introducing and exploring concepts of science, we should continuously encourage children to ask as many questions as possible. My motto has always been, “No question is too small to ask.”

Likewise, creating various ‘WH’ (who, what, where, when, why and how) starter questions for yourself that can be placed on a binder ring and attached to your belt loop can make conversations about the investigation and study much easier. For example, when doing an outdoor activity about water, some of your starter questions could be, “Why did the water…” or “What do you think may happen if …”, etc. 

With the many science projects and activities with my daughter, I walked away learning so much through the process. With each experience came a new level of understanding and appreciation for science that I then took back and applied in the classroom. I shared each new science exploration and adventure from the classroom with my daughter, and then I could share our discoveries with the children in my classroom.

Whether you are a teacher or a parent, or both, let’s begin to explore various concepts of science with our children this summer by providing them with many opportunities to connect new understandings to related experiences.

The Science Toolbox will offer "tools" for you to keep the science learning going through the summer! Check back to the Science in Pre-K blog for more ideas about introducing subject like water, life sciences and even astronomy to your little ones right at home! Also, check out this National Association for the Education of Young Children article about science learning through play with young children. 

"The important thing is to never stop questioning." ~ Albert Einstein

Shauna Davey Goldman is the Special Education Autism Specialist in the Office of Instructional Practice at DC Public Schools