Science and biology are by far my favorite subjects. I love how neatly every lines up in science. It just sorta clicks for me, especially when I am intrigued. However, I feel like our schools and homeschool curricula, in general, are doing our kids a grave injustice when it comes to scientific education.
With the development of the concept of STEM and STEAM, I have hope. People are starting to realize that kids can learn quite a bit from tinkering with cheap and small objects when they are working to meet a challenge.
You can theme these STEAM challenges, kids have a blast, and the activities are easy and effective at home or at school. I have several Pinterest boards for holiday-themed STEAM activities and by subject activities in my homeschool boards. Check me out!
I was also recently featured on Aurelius Cabrini talking about this same subject. Find thathere.
How we perceive science
Our culture sees science as a stagnant thing. Most of our experience with science is in the form of reading it from a textbook, maybe watching a few exciting demonstrations, and a lucky few of us have actually performed an experiment.
I don’t want my kids to view science as a fixed list of facts to be memorized because that couldn’t be further from the truth. I wish what schools and curricula call science would be termed “observations of the natural world” because that’s what it is. It is a collection of observations about the natural world that we have so thoroughly investigated that we don’t need to repeat the original experiments to believe them ourselves.
What is Science?
I teach my kids that science is a verb. Science is a method of asking questions, reducing complications, and observing the reaction.
This is where the scientific method comes in. This is the blueprint for the first half of science, the initial experiment. Once a scientist has completed their investigation via the scientific method, the science is NOT done. We do not accept their results as fact.
They must publish. There is a rich culture sprung up around publishing in scientific journals. If you have no experience with scientific journals, praise the era of the internet, because there are several that have sprung up as free to read. Plos One is probably the best-known one. Here is a directory of open access journals.
So why do scientists publish and why is there an entire sub-culture propped up around these publications? Because the second half of science is debate. Scientists read each other’s work, evaluate it, and rebut. Some of these arguments last decades. Scientists take sides. It can really be quite thrilling to read these chains of communication.
Let me give you an example. Today, it is a well-accepted fact that birds are descended from dinsoaurs. But, just 20 years ago, this was a hotly contested debate. This conflict actually dates back as far as 1869, when Thomas Henry Huxley, a celebrated naturalist, noted the similarities in skeletal anatomy between some dinosaurs and birds. His idea was dismissed as preposterous. Fast forward to the early 2000s, and paleontologists in China find a treasure trove of fossils, preserved in amazingly fine detail, of dinosaurs with feathers.
To review: Science is not a collection of facts. Science is an investigation method followed by a self-correcting debate process that separates logical conclusions from weak ones.
How To Approach
This post is going to focus on science skills. I wrote briefly about an important missing piece of the math education here.
I want to get the homeschool community talking about some important misunderstandings about science. We have chosen to accept the responsibility to give our kids the best education possible. In order to do that, we must focus on giving them exceptional math, reading, and science skills.
A 3 Pronged Approach
Parents need to view science as having 3 categories: Fields of Study, Experimental, Logic.
Fields of Study
Remember when you had biology, chemistry, and physics? Maybe at a younger age, you took classes called things like “Life Science” or “Physical Science”. These are like genres of science. And these different fields of study are all jumbled up in younger kids’ textbooks that are titled generic Science.
You can pursue curricula like textbooks in each individual field of study, and some people use only living books as their curriculum. A lot of people supplement with fun demonstrations and models.
But one important thing to understand is that for younger kids, it is completely fine to put this on the back burner for more instruction in critical thinking and logic.
The scientific method is a meticulous thing, and kids need to learn to run thorough experiments from a young age. Older kids need to understand that recording and analyzing data is the cornerstone of science and have ample opportunity to practice both.
Running simple experiments and watching simple demonstrations, keeping a journal, and STEM challenges are easy ways to introduce the heart of science to your kids.
What is the difference between a demonstration and an experiment? Many people use them interchangeably (or just use experiment), but they are not the same thing!
An experiment answers a question and compares two different outcomes.
A demonstration usually has a set of directions and you are pursuing a single outcome.
Last, many people overlook the importance of recording data in science. I would encourage you to always make your kids record results in some sort of format like tables, tally marks, dot plots, etc. If you are unsure how you should be recording results, hop over to your math curriculum in the Data and Graphs chapter.
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Clear thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving are skills that can be learned. We need to spend time exploring how to think and weigh possibilities with our kids. Understanding cause and effect, how to spot logical fallacies and work against cognitive biases are integral for exceptional science education!
Preschool and elementary kids can learn so many critical thinking skills from STEM and STEAM challenges, math, and reading. Older kids can work through logical fallacy and debate curricula.
This part of the approach is dedicated to teaching our kids to think. Where it goes a step further than most other curricula and conventional advice is that it goes a step further and teaches them to recognize faulty or deceptive patterns of thinking and make an informed decision without employing them.
Stay tuned over the next few months while I dig really deep into science, logic, and how to teach it for all ages! If you have any concerns or questions for me to tackle in my upcoming science and logic series, please leave a comment below or send me an email using the social icons at the top.