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How to Teach Science to Children

Do your kids love to learn about science and the natural world? Check out Ask Science’s 6 fun ways to make your kids put down their electronics and enjoy learning.

By
Lee Falin, PhD
4-minute read
Episode #16

Tip #2: Don't be Afraid to Use "Old Media"

There's a lot to be gained by using videos, animations, and even computer games to teach science. However, plain old books with pictures that don't move around have several advantages as well.

One of our favorite activities in the evening is to gather the family, have everyone choose a book, and listen while my wife or I read out loud to them. Don't assume that the younger kids won't be interested in the books the older kids choose, or that the older kids already know everything in those "little kid" books. Often the best parts of this experience for us aren't the reading material itself, but the conversations and discussions that ensue from the reading. Have you ever tried to have a conversation while watching a movie? It somehow doesn't seem to work as well.

Tip #3: Seize the Moment

When my youngest daughter crashed on her bike for the first time and acquired a small cut on her thumb she was startled by how much blood came out of that little cut. Later that night, long after she was bandaged up, one of my older kids chose a book from one of my favorite series for teaching science, The Magic School Bus. In this particular book, the bus full of science-learning students shrinks down and enters a fellow student's body. After touring his digestive system for a while, they end up in his blood stream where they encounter red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

One of the things we learned was that one drop of blood has about 5 million red blood cells in it. So my older daughter told her sister that she must have lost almost a billion blood cells that day in her bike wreck. My oldest son looked at me and asked, "What happens if you lose all of your blood cells?" I told him that if that happened, you'd die. He shot a concerned look at my daughter and I quickly added, "But your body is always making new ones to replace ones you've lost." I had to suppress a laugh at his obvious sigh of relief.

Tip #4: Vary Your Tactics

That same night we read that the way your throat swallows food isn't by gravity, but through muscles contracting in your esophagus which push the food down. The book pointed out that this is why you could swallow upside down. Of course everyone was keen to try that out, so we set the book aside, cut up some apple slices and took turns standing on our heads while trying to swallow. After everyone had a turn the kids were eager to get back to the book to see if it contained any other crazy ideas.

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Please note that archive episodes of this podcast may include references to Ask Science. Rights of Albert Einstein are used with permission of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Represented exclusively by Greenlight.

About the Author

Lee Falin, PhD

Dr. Lee Falin earned a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Illinois, then went on to obtain a Ph.D. in Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology from Virginia Tech.