Originally created 03/15/97

How to stir kids' enthusiasm for science



High school chemistry confounded you, and that tough physics course in college left you befuddled. But now you're a parent of small kids, and you'd love to see them shine in science.

What do you do?

First, says Janice VanCleave, keep quiet about your own academic struggles. "You're not going to encourage a child to like science if you tell them horror stories about your terrible experiences. When you do that, it's almost like the kids think they inherited this. `Well, Mom didn't do well, Dad didn't do well, so obviously I'm not gonna do well,' " says VanCleave, who has written more than two dozen science books for kids.

"I don't say you have to tell your children lies about it, but you don't have to stress it," she says.

Here are some of VanCleave's other suggestions for parents:

- Stir up wonderment.

"You can encourage science questions with things that happen in your life every day. `I wonder why the cake is rising in the oven.' I've done that with my grandkids, and you would be surprised how you start getting those `I wonder' questions. And if you don't know, that's okay. Then it would be, `Hmmm, how could we find this out?' And that would be the experience of going to the library or a book store to find question-and-answer books."

- Emphasize fun.

"With very young children, it's okay for them not to have the science information drummed into them. I want the children to like the experience, to like learning about science. But you don't say, `Sorry, you're going to have to sit here until you understand what causes these bubbles.' When they're through blowing the bubbles and they want to go off and do something else, let them go. You can bring up the explanation later."

- Do stuff together.

"Take them to the library and check out a science book and do something together. There's the key right there: Do it together. You're putting a positive stamp of approval on the activity."



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 EDUCATION   HUMAN INTEREST   JANICE VANCLEAVE