‘Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.’
You may have heard this quotation before which has been variously attributed to Aristotle, Confucius and Benjamin Franklin amongst others. Opinion is divided on its origins but there is definitely consensus that whoever said this has hit the proverbial nail right on the head. Much of rote or passive learning is tossed into space as soon as the examinations are over (or sometimes even before that!) but the learning that has come about through experimentation and experience tends to stick around for much longer. More importantly, it is active learning that fires the imagination and nurtures the passion for a subject. The benefits of igniting passions are undoubtedly manifold and long-lasting.
So, as parents, how do we light that fire? Here are some suggestions:
Encourage your child’s curiosity
Try and answer their questions as often and as quickly as possible. No question should be deemed as too silly or too inconsequential. If you don’t know, try and find out. The internet is a timeless and boundless resource containing a wealth of information about anything and everything. Alternatively, visit your neighbourhood library and look through the reference books in the children’s section. You are bound to find the information that you need and so much more. There is also the added bonus of showing your child that learning is a never-ending process and that they should continue to learn as they grow.
If your child is not asking questions, be the one to ask the questions instead. For example, while at the seafood section at the wet market or supermarket, ask them the difference between how humans and marine creatures breathe. If they don’t know, discuss how we breathe and the fact we take oxygen from the air while fish take in dissolved oxygen in the water. Lift the gill flap to show your child the location of gill filaments that help it to do this task. Similarly, you can show your child the gill chambers of a crab which enable the crab to be alive both on land and in water.
Just be careful so that you don’t get your fingers pricked by their powerful pincers…. 🙂
Establish connections between Science in the textbook and Science in their daily lives.
Make an effort to ask them about what they are learning at school and then look for and capitalise on opportunities to link this with what they see and hear around them.
The quintessential travel keepsake that many people love to collect – the fridge magnet, is a great resource. Encourage your kids to tell you about why the magnets seem to ‘stick’ on the refrigerator door but not on other surfaces.
Use your front door to teach your child that a force can be a push or a pull or ask them about the water droplets that appear when a can of their favourite drink from the refrigerator is left outside for a while.
Remember the white and gold dress phenomenon that took the internet by storm last year. Some people saw it as a white & gold dress while others saw blue instead of white. Such trending news items present golden opportunities to introduce scientific concepts to your child. For older kids, ask them to do some research on their own to find out the science behind such phenomena.
Have we piqued your curiosity once again about the white-gold dress phenomenon? Good. You can find out more here and then talk it over with your child. For younger children, you might have to simplify some concepts.
Try and use Science terms when speaking to your child about what he sees, feels and hears.
A common problem that many Singapore students face is that they don’t explain their answers with the appropriate terminology. By making these words / phrases a natural part of their vocabulary, you would be helping them make giant leaps forward in doing well at Science in school.
For example, when you are at the park and see a butterfly flying from one flower to another, ask your child what the butterfly is doing. If they don’t already know, use the term ‘pollination’ when explaining what is happening.
Allow your child to build things and especially, to take things apart.
Of course, this should be done with guidance for young children. Older children must be imbued with the sense of responsibility to ask before they take anything apart. For example, they can take a pen apart to see how the spring works in allowing the pen to be clicked ‘on’ and ‘off’. Encourage, rather than discourage your child when they want to dismantle their old toys to see how they work. Challenge them to try and put the toys back together again after their curiosity has been satisfied.
Bring your child to the museums, aquariums and parks.
The ArtScience Museum, the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and the SEA Aquarium, just to name a few, present excellent opportunities to pique your child’s innate sense of curiosity about the world around them. There is also the added bonus of giving you a chance to bond with your child as you share that sense of wonder and talk about what you have witnessed.