Tips for nurturing a child’s love of science

Children are naturally inquisitive. As adults we can help the youth in our lives nurture their curiosity and their budding love of science through programs such as 4-H which offers easy projects that will engage young people in science.

My 2-year-old son says, “Snowman…fall down!” His 6-year-old brother shares that he can make his scooter go faster around a corner by leaning. My 8-year-old son asks, “How does medicine move in my body?” after he receives an immunization. What they are really doing is learning about science through inquiry or questions. Children are naturally inquisitive. As adults we can help the youth in our lives nurture their curiosity and their budding love of science. It is just that simple.

The 4-H program can help children build their science skills because it focuses on engaging youth and adults in hands-on learning. Youth in 4-H learn through experience, are encouraged to ask questions, use critical thinking and use problem-solving skills to determine answers to their questions. Their confidence increases when they learn they can solve problems. 

According to the National 4-H website, “To address increased demand for science and technology professionals, National 4-H is working to reach a bold goal of engaging one million new young people in science programs by 2013. Currently, 4-H Science programs reach more than 5 million youth with hands-on learning experiences to ensure global competitiveness and prepare the next generation of science, engineering, and technology leaders.” The One Million New Scientists One Million New Ideas Campaign video is a powerful visual that helps us see the impact the 4-H program can have on youth and communities.

There are some simple steps you can take to help children in your life develop a love of science.

  • Instead of explaining or telling youth why something is happening, encourage children to experience, observe and question what is going on in the world around them. Help youth understand that it is OK to not always find the answers to a question.
  • Encourage youth to think like a scientist. Ask questions that lead youth to explain what they think is happening. Encourage children to make predictions about what they expect to occur.   
  • Urge youth to record their experiences and let them discover if their assumptions are correct through exploration.
  • Help youth learn to communicate and defend their thinking to others.

For younger children, consider exploring science through fun and easy projects that can be done at home or at a 4-H club meeting. The Michigan 4-H Science Blast website has terrific activity ideas for adults working with youth. If you are working with older youth, visit the National 4-H website for tips on how to incorporate more science into 4-H projects or visit the Oregon 4-H Science Inquiry series for more ideas.

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