As readers may already know I am a high school biology teacher. However you may not know that I have a bachelor of science in environmental science and a master of science in biology. I worked for public non-profits and the private sector on my way towards becoming a biology teacher. I have a passion for science education because at my core I am a scientist; I graduated college expecting to pursue the scientific fields and not the field of education but after the fact decided to turn my interests towards education so I ultimately took another class pursuing the “alternate route” program in my state to earn my teaching certificate. I think this has made a difference in how I approach science education in my classroom and also with the Munchkin.
“Science” is often considered something only the “smart” people can do but in essence we are all scientists in different disciplines when we try something new or work to answer a question. Good scientists just want to answer questions and better scientists don’t rest until they get the same answer multiple times (notice I did not say the answer they want). Science is the PURSUIT of knowledge for knowledge’s sake or practical purposes. We follow a method in order to better understand and validate that knowledge but at its core, science is just looking for answers to questions.
I am willing to bet almost everyone has heard of the scientific method (and currently watched it unfolded in real time due to COVID19 or sars-cov-2 even if you didn’t realize that is what you were doing). As students we’ve been trained to treat science as a series of steps but it’s not really a series of steps and more like an interconnected web of asking questions, testing possible answers and communicating those results to each other and the world and then doing it all over again. I love this process because you are allowed to continually ask questions and you’re allowed to be wrong. One of the best quotes summing up the process of science:
“Science, my boy, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.”
― Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth
Children are natural scientists, they have no idea why the world is the way it is; they are constantly looking to try and identify it. They are pursuing knowledge for knowledge’s sake and that is science. This is why, if you’ve spent any time around small children, you might have noticed they are constantly asked “why?”
Why is the sky blue?
Why is the grass green?
Why does it do that?
And so on….
The questions can also be “what” or “how” but ultimately they’re looking for answers to understand why the world is the way it is.
Children’s minds are full of questions and full of hypotheses (if you don’t remember; a hypothesis is a TESTABLE educated answer to a question) that they’re using to try and understand the world. This is where I come in, the Munchkin is four years old currently and I’m still being asked every single why under the sun (including whys about the sun) and I answer her as truthfully as possible. I’ve explained chlorophyll, photosynthesis, stars, fungus, and a myriad of other topics to her already. I try to make those explanations as clear and age appropriate as I can but realize that I am in a special place to explain these things to her where other parents may not be. We are all experts in something but we’re not experts in everything. While another parent/person may be able to bake and decorate cupcakes (her current favorite YouTube show), I can explain science and natural phenomena.
I’m debuting a new feature on the blog this week I’m calling “STEM Mom” If you have ever wondered how to answer your kid’s “why” I hope you can find some of that knowledge here. I’m also hoping to show you simple ways to foster creativity, science, math, and investigation without breaking the bank or requiring you to subscribe to a monthly kit.
Don’t discourage their investigation, I know it can be frustrating (and hella messy). Even I get tired of her endless string of whys some days (especially when we just aren’t understanding each other) but I ultimately know I am trying to raise an adult who’s questioning of “why” will help her in every aspect of life. One day I won’t know all the answers she needs (sometimes I don’t have them now!) but I can equip her with the skills she will need to find the answers.
If you have a question don’t hesitate to ask it but for now I’m just going to draw on my own experiences and what we’ve done to investigate the world in this house. I hope you enjoy this new content.