I’ve come across it more than once. The totally blank, checked out, deer in the headlights look when I mention science. I also get a lot of gasps when I mention my PhD, because I mean really, what normal person has a PhD in Physics?!? I have learned that about 99.999% of people can not do physics (according to their own assumption) – it must be a throwback to a painfully boring high school class. And once I get the “I was never good at physics” line, I often hear the “I’m not a math person” line or the “I don’t like science” line.
It always kills me when I hear those statements – especially when they have their kids in tow. Seriously. Adults are the number one indicator of student success in science. The. Number. One. Indicator. What do you think goes through those little heads when they hear you say such nonsense?
That’s why we need to stop treating science like it’s a dirty word. Activities can have science in them and (gasp) still be fun! I swear, it can happen. Not only that, those science activities can also be used to teach kids. What? Say it ain’t so.
Over the years we have spent so much time making science fun, or “taking the pain out of science” that lots of kids activities completely lack the core principles of whatever concept they are crafting with. We have become happy with making slime and mixing volcanoes. But what if we paired those fun activities with real science. What if when we looked at fossils we learned how to carbon date. Yes, carbon date. What if we built a mass spectrometer out of building blocks, coins, and a hair dryer? A mass spectrometer that modeled all of the same principles they will learn about in college? Wouldn’t that be a far better activity than adding food coloring to milk? Our kids will have just as much fun, but learn so much more and be better prepared for the science they will face in middle school and beyond.
What if we set our expectations of our kids high, and our expectations of the curriculum higher? Kids will rise to the challenge, they will love making a mummy out of a chicken and learning osmosis with gummy bears and potato slices. They will love learning engineering principles while blowing up baking soda and vinegar rockets. They will relish programming a paper rover, and giggle at decorating a popsicle stick rover with broken electronics. These are all fun crafty activities, but with a punch. A punch that helps kids learn science by doing science, and a punch that lowers the barrier for parents who “hate’ science (although I’m not even sure how that is possible, hating science, blasphemy).
Of course, all of this fun only works if you have the right lesson plans, guidance, videos, and printouts to support it. Creating that curriculum is what I consider to be my job. Making time in your day to have a great time blowing things up while learning? That’s your job. Together we can do it.
Together we can make it so that science isn’t a dirty word. We can make it fun and educational. Together we can assure that the two are not mutually exclusive.