But how do parents get their children to see the beauty of everyday science? And once they've sparked an interest in science, how do they keep it alive all year—maybe even for a lifetime? Experiments that explode, ooze or taste funny are great for older kids, but what about finding the fascinating in everyday things that we generally take for granted? Small children's eyes will light up if you even bring up the differences in the colors of two butterflies or crack open an acorn to see what's inside.
Lynne Cherry, the author of How Groundhog's Garden Grew, a book for young children on the cycle of gardens, sharing, friendships, and the beauty of nature, suggests that science is everything and anything in our world. Cherry is also the author of the environmental classic, The Great Kapok Tree, and is a strong advocate for green schools and schoolyard gardens. She recommends parents go out and touch the soil—a lesson even a baby can appreciate.
"Composting is one of the most exciting things in the world," says Cherry, artist-in-residence at the Princeton Environmental Institute at Princeton University. Cherry's website, www.lynnecherry.com, gives parents many, many ideas on how to get into science for themselves and for their children. Here are some of her tips:
- Get a magnifying glass. Start looking at blades of grass, the bark of a tree, what's inside the cracks in the sidewalk.
- Stop using pesticides because they kill beneficial insects as well as pests. As an exciting experiment, discover what aphids or ladybugs can do to the peskiest of pests.
- Ditch the TV and take the kids outside. No more excuses—just do it. Dig up the dirt. Get bugs and plants for a terrarium, plan and plant a butterfly garden.
"Parents can end up having as much fun as kids," Cherry says.