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How Parents Can Instill a Love of Science in Children

Now more than ever, we are seeing the necessity of having scientists who can solve the world’s problems. Scientists are the ones who develop the life-saving testing and vaccines needed to stem outbreaks, are the doctors and nurses who heal the sick, and are the engineers who develop new devices and processes to keep the economy running.

So how can parents support future scientists — their children — now? Extended school closures paired with summer break provides parents with a unique opportunity to further their children’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning at home.

For parents looking to actively engage their children in meaningful and continuous STEM learning while children are not physically in school, it is important to:

  • Understand science standards: What concepts and content should children learn at different grade levels? The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for K-12 set the expectations for what children should know and be able to do at each grade. Just like teachers in the classroom, knowing the standards will help you design appropriate learning experiences for your children at home while ensuring they stay on track with grade-level expectations. There are even NGSS parent guides available to help.
  • Know proper safety protocols: What simple steps can you take to ensure your home is conducive to safe science exploration? When it comes to investigations — whether in a classroom lab or at home — safety should be the No. 1 priority. For parents, James Palcik, Director of Safety, Compliance, and Education at Flinn Scientific, says knowing the outcome of any given investigation is important so that they can understand potential hazards, take necessary precautions, and plan accordingly. He suggests watching an online tutorial or demo of the investigation before testing it out for the first time at home.
  • Make real-world connections: How can you help your children make meaningful connections? How can you connect STEM learning to everyday life? From gardening to cooking to coding activities, there are many ways to tie scientific concepts to activities that students enjoy. This resource from the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) suggests asking open-ended science questions during grocery trips or park visits, taking apart (and reassembling) old toys or appliances, and more.
  • Utilize readily-available resources: What videos, labs, and digital solutions can you easily access for free? Answer: a lot. Many education companies have curated collections of resources to help support at-home learning. For example, Flinn has a library of free science activities available that utilize common household items such as dish detergent and straws, as well as a video lab series with scientists and more. Many local museums, science centers, zoos, and aquariums are also releasing fun and engaging at-home activities for children to complete at home. For example, the Maryland Science Center has DIY experiments teaching children how to make Alka-Seltzer fireworks and butterfly feeders, just to name a few.

These four best practices will help parents both engage their children in STEM at home as well as ensure children are prepared for when they return to the science classroom. Remember, parents: with science, the possibilities are endless.

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