Growing Young Scientists

18 Feb 2010 by admin, No Comments »

There has been a lot of science and discovery happening in our house lately.

It is Science Fair time of year.  Each year our children participate in their schools’ fair.  It is not required and it is a lot of work.  Not many children participate.  Why do we insist that our children do?

We want them to have scientific minds — to look at the world around them and ask “why”  and “how.”  I like that science fair is a huge task and must be tackled in small bits at a time.  This teaches them about long-term projects and project planning.  Granted, at the first grade level, much of the planning happens on the parent end.  But by sixth grade, most of it is done by the child.  We guide our kids through the process but do not do the work.  They pick their own topics.  There has never been any need to look at one of those “Science Fair Idea” books — their worlds provide plenty of ideas.

The fair takes a lot of parent involvement.  Some think this is wrong but I think it’s OK and this is why.  By working on this with my child (they do the work, we guide them through the process), I’m sending the message that their ideas and projects are important to our family.  We’ll take the necessary time (and, yes, this takes lots and lots of time) to sit with them, read with them, and talk about their project.  As a parent, I have set up meetings with people who could inspire them, help them, or educate them about their topics.  We’ve spent time together in libraries researching books (and for the younger kids, reading the books to them).  I’ve taken photos of their projects, typed bibliographies, and driven them around to buy supplies (yes, even once to a pet store to beg for an aquarium water sample).  Once their heart set on a project, I will gladly help them get all the necessary parts together to enable them to do their experiments.  I will not do them.  I will watch and cheer them on and help out if necessary but this is where they become true scientists.  They record their results and interpret them.  We are often surprised by what they discover.  It never fails but each year, each child has an “Aha” moment.  Those are the moments that make this a worthy endeavor.

Does it matter if they get a blue ribbon?  Not a bit.  By the time my kids have their project finished, they have a greater understanding of their subject than before they started and the satisfaction of a a long project completed.  This, in my opinion, is a greater and more lasting award.  Oh, and the ice cream celebration doesn’t hurt either.

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