I think that one of the most important things we can do for our kids is to expose them to more science.
I taught 4 year old through 5th grade students in a science lab for a few years. So, I have to confess, I have an eency bit of a bias when I say this. But still… I stand by it.
I love that science by its very nature is perfectly suited for the curiosity that our kids naturally possess. I love that science allows children to examine the world and to conduct experiments to formulate their own answers to the multitude of questions they have. Science encourages kids to think, experiment, hypothesize, question, critique and explore. All of the things I think our kids should be doing constantly in order to develop strong critical thinking skills.
So I love science. And I want my kids to love it too.
I want them to be thinking about science constantly and to have a place to collect their questions, hypotheses and discoveries.
That’s why I think all kids, from about 3 years old through 5th grade (and beyond!), should have their very own Science Journals at home.
Ours is a binder. Yours may be a binder too. It may instead be a spiral notebook, a special journal or a stack of white printer paper stapled in the corner. It may even be a shoebox.
The only important thing about your child’s science journal is that your kids love it and are able to use it as a place to collect science-related artifacts or thoughts.
How to Start
There are a couple of ways that you can introduce your kids to their new science journal:
1. You can make it a big, dramatic, exciting event. (This is what I did, because why not find something to celebrate on a random boring Tuesday?!?) You may tell your child that you’ve seen them behaving more and more like a scientist, and you’ve decided that it’s a really great time to finally find a place to collect all of the great scientific learnings they are having. Take them to your local office supply store (or the dollar store if you’d like to stick to a budget!) and hunt for a science journal. Let your child pick out their favorite thing, bring it home and decorate it!
2. You can also have a journal of some type already set aside and just wait for the next time that you see your child experimenting or exploring nature. Take advantage of this time and hand them their new journal. Tell your child they are being such an incredible scientist that you’ve found this special journal for them, and from this day on, this journal will be a place for them to collect their thinking about science.
What goes in the journal?
Anything! Seriously. Anything that is exciting to your kids and that relates to science. No matter how loosely.
Examples of things that I encourage my son to put in his journal are:
- Leaves, flowers, etc.: We cut them or pick them and he tapes them into his journal. He may write or draw next to them or may not!
- Pictures: My son loves using my camera phone so I will pass it to him when I see him exploring outside, allow him to take pictures, and I quickly print them off on my wireless printer! We will often then sit down at the dining room table and write about the pictures or label them.
- Drawings: Any time my son draws or writes about living things, these drawings go into his journal. He loves to trace pictures of animals (or watch other people trace them!), so we have a whole stack of these in his journal.
- Brochures, Business Cards, etc.: We went to a local reptile show last month and my son collected brochures and business cards from all the stands because they had reptile pictures on them! All of them went straight into his journal. Last week we went to the California Science Center. We brought home the map of the museum and put that into his journal.
- Questions: Kids ask lots of questions- it’s an important part of their development. To honor my son’s questions and collect them to answer later, we have a piece of paper in his science journal that is filled with questions. Any time he has a question that I can’t immediately answer, we write it down and put it in his journal. Sometimes we even sit down and just collect questions about topics he’s interested in. Even though we aren’t finding answers right then, it’s one of his favorite things to do. If we are going somewhere special – a science museum or zoo – we will often collect questions before we go and try to find the answers to them.
- Observations and Hypotheses: I wrote here that I believe these are two words that will absolutely help your child succeed in school. Why not use them in your science journal?!?
When do we use the journal?
We sometimes go weeks without touching outher science journal. And sometimes, Ash carries it around the house, sleeps with it, brings it to the car and opens it up to talk about at the dinner table.
Like any kind of learning opportunity that I introduce to my kids, I follow their lead. I want him to love the science journal and have ownership over it so I never “make him” use it.
However, if I see him exploring nature, I’ll remind him that he can take it out if he’d like. I offer to grab him some tape and a pair of scissors if he wants to collect leaves. Or if he tells me about what he’s observing, I’ll say, “Can you hold on? You have some really important science thinking so I want to run in the house and grab your science journal and a pen so that I can write down what you’re telling me and we won’t forget it!”
The science journal is great to bring along on a family walk, trip to a museum, or vacation. You may go on a Picture Scavenger Hunt, print the pictures, and glue them into your journal.
You don’t need to do any fancy experiments, but if you happen to conduct an experiment every once in a while in your home, collecting pictures, words, graphs and narratives about these experiments in your journal would be fantastic!
Looking for some simple experiments to do right now as an exciting kick-off to your new Science Journal? Here are a few fun ideas to get you started!