The Curious Kid's Science Book
100+ Creative Hands-On Activities for Ages 4-8
Asia Citro, M.Ed. Asia Citro, M.Ed.
The Innovation Press
My 5-year-old daughter is playing in our living room, using pieces of wood as ramps for two matchbox cars. These pieces of wood have a nice groove in the middle, making them perfect little ramps. "Mom!" she exclaims "Look! One of the cars falls off the ramp every time, but the other car stays on the whole way down." She sits for a moment, pondering the ramp and the two cars. Then she smiles and flips the cars over "I get it! This one has bigger wheels, so they don't fit all the way in the middle of the ramp and that makes it fall".
"Ooh, interesting theory" I return, "could you find a way to test that with more cars?" She nods and hops off to dig through her toys, triumphantly returning with a monster truck sporting wide wheels and a mustang with narrower wheels. She sends the cars down, followed quickly by an "I knew it! The monster truck has wheels that are too big. It doesn't fit and it falls off too!" Shortly thereafter a plastic velociraptor slides its way completely down the ramp. She excitedly checks and yes, his feet and tail are narrow enough to fit in the groove.
Later, after inspecting the ramp for a minute, my daughter's face lights up as she asks "Mom! Can we build a see-saw to weigh some of my toys with this ramp?". I nod and watch as her eyes dart around the room looking for the items she'll need. Minutes later she's "weighing" various toys on a balance she's created herself out of a piece of wood trim she's balanced on a small plastic box.
"We can best help children learn...by paying attention to what they do; answering their questions...and helping them explore the things they are most interested in."
As a science teacher, I would like to see us change how we approach science with our children.
To me, science isn't about following someone else's experiment step-by-step, or just watching exciting demonstrations. It isn't about reciting scientific facts or vocabulary. It's about asking your own questions and making your own investigations - two things young children are very good at! Using simple materials from a grocery store, your house, and your kitchen, this book encourages children to explore science in an open-ended, playful, and powerful way.
Excerpt from Chapter 1: Plants and Seeds
Challenge: Design a Plant Maze
Plants can grow to reach the things they need, like sunlight. Will your plant be able to grow through your maze and reach the light?
Mission: Tape pieces of cardboard or paper inside a box to create a maze between the plant at the bottom of the box and the hole of light at the top.
Materials: Cardboard box with one hole at the top, sunny window, small bean sprout (a few inches tall), pieces of cardboard or paper, tape
Be sure that the only light in the box is coming from the hole at the top; patch any other holes in the box that would allow light in.
Be sure to place the finished maze where it will get as much sunlight as possible.
Create some sort of door or lid that is removable so you can check on the progress of your plant.
Don't forget to regularly water your plant.
Can you design a maze that is so complicated your plant can't reach sunlight before it dies?
How does the size of your box (small, tall, etc) change whether or not the plant can reach the sunlight?
How does the number of turns in the maze change the number of days it takes for the plant to reach the light?
Do you think different types of plants (peas vs. beans, etc) do a better job of making it through the maze than others?
What happens if you have more than one hole letting light in?
Asia Citro, M. Ed, is a former classroom science teacher with a Master's in Science Education. She is the author of 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids and the creator of the popular blog Fun at Home with Kids. Her work has been featured on Apartment Therapy, The Chicago Tribune, Today, Disney Baby, MSN, King 5 TV, and Highlights, among others.