#STEMchat Summary: How to Raise Kids who Love Science


The other day I posted a Tweet by Tweet transcript of the recent #STEMchat on how to raise kids who love science, but I sense that only the most curious among you dare read it. A Twitter chat is similar to a cocktail party, which means there are multiple conversation threads and voices overlapping one another.

Jen Merrill of Laughing at Chaos blog and author of the new book  If This is a Gift, Can I Send it Back? did me the favor of sifting through the discussion streams separating the virtual wheat from the chaff. (Okay, I paid her for the favor, but not a lot, so buy her book, please.)

Highlights and Links from The Maker Mom’s First #STEMchat 
featuring me (@KimMoldofsky), @KitchPantrySci, @ScienceGoddess and @YvonneinLA August 2012

Q1: Do you think all kids have a natural curiosity about the world?
Kids ARE naturally curious, & learn through play. Keeping the play alive as they age encourages learning.
Give them freedom to explore/experiment!
I think young kids are naturally curious but as they get older their curiosity may move away because they aren’t encouraged.
This homemade science lab is cheap (buy stuff at Target) and safe for kids to explore on their own.

Q2: How do you handle your child’s many questions without shutting them down?
I handle the big complicated questions with a gentle nudge and more questions.
I took any opportunity to jump on any child’s current passion or interest and help them explore more.
Breaking down the questions can help. It’s tough for a child to do all the research all at once.
Help kids look answers up, after asking them why they think the answer is first, of course.
Often the first thing I’ll say to my daughter when she asks a question is “What do you think?” because her thoughts are important.
We start w/ “what do you think?” then research & ask more questions on the way. Look for specialists we can ask (because it’s fun).
Thank goodness for the internet & access to top resources. We no longer need to rely on dated info.
“I don’t know” is a powerful answer: a sign of strength and curiosity, not weakness or lack of intelligence.
Q3: What resources help you teach or explore science with your family?
Collaborating with other science loving geeks is a great resource.
We’re lucky to know a lot of science folks & engineers. We talk to everyone & ask questions. People love to share, especially w/ curious kids.
State Department of Natural Resources offers posters, print resources, and a page of their web site is devoted to kids.
Local universities (I heard this mentioned) sometimes present science shows for kids.
Our local library has museum passes that you can check out to visit zoos/museums free!
Keep an eye out on daily deal sites (Groupon, LivingSocial, AmazonLocal) for good deals on memberships and activities.
Doctor Mad Science is an autistic boy who makes great, kid-friendly science demo videos!
The KidScience app is set up like a recipe app. Search by what’s on hand, kids ages, or time available.
Scope on a Rope, great to show kids gross science stuff.

Q4: How do you feel about your school’s science program?
Actually, my daughter has a great science program because her teacher loves science. Otherwise it’s not a priority.
I so wish they would be more hands on with science, my son loved when we homeschooled science, hated it in school.
Wish teachers would relate science in school to the real world more.
I think it is hit or miss with the science teachers. Hard to fit in hands-on, but it can be done!
Best I can tell it boils down to passion for teaching science. A passionate teacher will challenge and engage.
My son’s friend at private school dissected chicken wings. My son replied “we dropped pennies in a cup.” It appears money can buy science.
I think many kids are fascinated by how things are made/work. Why not teach ’em about things they use?
I think “Science” is such a big term – where to start/what’s important. Let kids pick. Interest=Learn.

Q5: What extra-curricular or “afterschooling” programs help keep the fun in science learning?
Lots of after-school science programs are expensive. Science is often more available to wealthy kids. Science is becoming like sports/music, if you can afford it you can get it. That’s just wrong. Science can be less expensive, but to do hands-on work beyond nature observations, there is always an expenditure.
I use my love of cooking to teach chemistry and math–nutritional info on the side panels of their favorite foods also works!
Cooking is an amazing way to teach a usable skill AND science, math, nutrition, technology.
Lego robotics. Camp Invention. Club Invention. Museum memberships.
I have a mobile science lab for kids. Safe experiments anywhere
Science clubs with a focus are often good. Robotics, nature clubs, etc.
Gross Science& First Lego League are my daughter’s 2 favorites. Loves using chemistry to make ooey gooey things.
We do fun stuff like the Ivory Soap Cloud.
Do a hand washing experiment with petri dishes so they see why they have to scrub! Fun and effective!
This great directory (not sure if it’s up to date) of after school STEM activities.
The Steve Spangler experiment emails are great too, plus his site.
Janice Van Cleave’s books are the best. Magic School Bus books and videos were great, too!
Love sharing parts of the New York Science Times with my kids every Tuesday!
If looking for project ideas, check Science Toy Maker. Toys from everyday and recycled materials.
Also, I love Intel Maker/Research Jay Silver’s passion and enthusiasm in this video
Q6: How can you start a science/math/robotics club at your kids’ school?
Get the support of the principal & a teacher, even if that teacher is not there when it happens.
Brother-in-law gave his daughter a computer – in parts – and she had to put it together. Now she’s the tech person to teachers at Junior High
Please add your thoughts in the comments and join us for the September chat. (Date TBA.)

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