Just Do It
When Carol Martsolf's daughter, Catherine, was little, her mother worried if she'd be interested in science. Martsolf, after all, is a civil engineer. But she needn't have worried. Catherine, now seven, still notices and tries to study birds when she and her mom walk to school. "She likes science where you can see applications in real life," says Martsolf, of Lansdowne, Pennsylvania.
As it turns out, that's the best piece of advice parents could get about showing their kids how cool science can be: Don't just teach it, get out and DO it.
Parents tend to forget that science can be as small as examining the waterspout that forms when the bathwater goes down the drain, breaking off an icicle from the branch of a tree, or learning that a bug's antennae are not antlers. It's as simple as mixing dirt with water, filling a birdfeeder and watching who comes for lunch, or planting a pumpkin seed in a paper cup of soil. We can worry about our kids memorizing the Periodic Table and figuring cosines later. When kids are small, so should be the experimentation.
"Show [kids] how they can become excited by exploring and wondering, either through observation or experimentation," suggests Doug Jones, administrative director of the Children's School of Science in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, which offers summer courses for children, focusing on direct observation as a method of learning. The scientific community of Woods Hole and the complex geology and biology of that area give kids a great "live" learning environment.