Friday, July 22nd, 2011
There have been many laments by educators, psychologists, and pediatricians that children do not explore nature enough these days. A recent feature at Parents.com talked about the unique learning opportunities parents can give their kids by visiting nature places. But you can also find opportunities to stimulate your child’s scientific thinking right at home, just by looking up at the sky.
Dr. Juan Ivaldi, a chemist, author, and astronomy educator, has recently written a wonderful piece called “Family Sky Fun: Five Ways to Have Fun With the Sky” on his blog devoted to essential astronomy. He suggests five interactive ways for parents to explore the sky, both day and night, with their children. These include:
- Making a human sundial (all you need is a sunny day, a piece of chalk if you have a sidewalk or paved driveway, or a stick or rock if you are in your backyard or a field)
- Tracking the phases of the moon (it only takes a few minutes per day for about a month)
- Holding in your hand the elements that make up the moon (hint: you just need dirt and rocks)
- Finding the brightest star in the sky (you can combine this with eating s’mores if you like)
- Locating constellations (particularly the Big Dipper and Orion)
You can read the details of how to do these things with your kids on Dr. Ivaldi’s blog. What’s really great about his suggestions is that they:
- Promote parent-child interaction
- Get kids (and parents) outside
- Train young eyes to perceive the natural world
Every child experiences a sense of wonder about nature. So while buying science-based toys and visiting museums are terrific ways to expose your child to science, there is no substitute for getting children outside and giving them ways to explore the world. After all, that’s what scientists do!