One of the things missing in much of today's homeschool and public school science curricula is the promotion of excitement, wonder, discovery and exploration. Many teachers don't understand science very well and it's difficult for them to make the subject fun when they are struggling to teach it. However, in order to provide deeper understanding of the topics and help kids retain the information they learn, it's important to help them get excited about it.
Experimentation versus Demonstration
Much of the science curricula on the market today focuses more on demonstration than experimentation. Textbooks usually include lots of color pictures, which make them visually stimulating, but they just portray the concepts of science rather than allowing kids to explore those concepts themselves.
Research has shown that in order to truly understand science, students must use hands-on experimentation and compare the results to existing preconceptions. This allows them to take the information they've already acquired - much of it false or misleading - and find out for themselves why it doesn't hold up to scientific fact.
Kids need to analyze and reflect on what they witness firsthand, which helps them fit each piece of the puzzle into the bigger picture that represents our world. In fact, according to research shared on Project 2061, "Effective education for science literacy requires that every student be frequently and actively involved in exploring nature in ways that resemble how scientists themselves go about their work."
The majority of mainstream science curricula presents lots of facts - too many, in fact. The focus is on quantity, not quality. Not only is the amount of information overwhelming to young students, it isn't connected to the everyday events and objects children find in their own backyard. Once again, scientific facts are presented in demonstration format; telling rather than showing via questions and examples.
A Better Way To Teach Science
Promoting science literacy is much easier when students are allowed to actively and frequently explore nature in the same way that scientific researchers do. Doing rather than just reading or seeing is the way most humans learn - and learn in a way that provides better retention and comprehension. It's important to allow students time for exploring, observing, testing and discovering. Rote memorization is not only boring, it's largely ineffective.
Kids get excited when they can perform experiments themselves. They enjoy doing and observing. They learn through the process of discovery, by asking "what if" questions and putting those theories to the test. Coincidentally, that's how "real" science works. Scientists develop a hypothesis based on known information, then put it to the test in order to discover new and fascinating facts about the world.
In order to get your homeschool students excited about science, use experiments as a way to stimulate their natural curiosity. Make this a regular part of your teaching so that kids look forward to science class. Let them do in order to grab their attention, then allow their inquisitive minds to take over and ask questions about what they witnessed. Those inquisitive responses are a great way to stimulate real understanding and keep them excited about learning more.
The more you can challenge your kids to explore and discover based on what they see and do and hear and smell, the better your chances of producing a scientist for life!
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