10 Ways To Expose Your Child To Science

My children have a healthy interest in science and here is a list of ways to encourage their love of science. With an encouragement of STEM interest, hopefully you can find something to challenge them.

1. Read Books
If your child loves dinosaurs, space, animals, human body or other scientific related topics, books are one of the easiest ways to get them started. There are plenty of information books with pictures available in the market and libraries. They are usually well illustrated with details.
wow human body 1

Since gifted children tend to retain information well, you may want to read the books ahead to understand the topics. I couldn’t name more than 4 types of dinosaurs when I started out, but getting encyclopedic books on them helped immensely. I also found out there were different periods, such as Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous, and the types of plants found were different. I also learnt that there were many categories of dinosaurs.

All these information came in useful when my son came up with dinosaur charades for me and with my new found knowledge, I managed not to embarrass myself and could hold conversations with him on the topics. Do take note that some of the books may contain wrong information, which sometimes get pointed out by my son. This is especially so with story books based on dinosaurs. The illustrators sometimes get the pictures wrong (e.g. 3 fingers for T-Rex instead of 2), or dinosaurs in wrong time periods. Nevertheless, story books with a science focus do provide another level of enjoyment.

For older children, there are plenty of magazines on science. There are also memoirs by explorers, such as those who went to the Antarctica.

2. Watch TV programs – Cartoons
I know some people do not watch TV, but I have found many TV programs that do provide interesting science knowledge to children.

Cartoons such as Dinosaur Train, Magic Schoolbus, Sid the Science Kid and a very old one, Once Upon A Time: Life are extremely informative. They explain how animals migrated in the past, how reversible and irreversible changes work, how photosynthesis work and many other concepts. With songs and animation, they are useful for children. For children who are unable to read yet, this would be a good source for them.
3d fondant dinosaur train cupcakes 1

Do check your local programming. These shows are also available on YouTube or as DVDs. My children love to pop the DVDs in themselves and watch the cartoons.

3. Watch TV programs – Competitions
Apart from cartoons, there are game shows involving children or teenagers. One that I have watched with my children is Lab Rat. They conduct interesting and wacky experiments and hold competitions to challenge the students. Sometimes the students are given challenges to explain concepts. These are more suitable for older children who could benefit. I have also seen local competitions where students from various schools pit themselves against the others.

4. Watch TV programs – Documentaries
National Geographic and Discovery channels have a lot of documentaries. The newer ones are more exciting and entertaining. We get to see a whole range of endangered animals from all parts of the world. With time lapse filming, we get to see how plants grow, how carnivorous plants catch their prey, and how ice bergs melt. With deep sea filming, we get to see angler fish and other deep sea creatures. With drone filming, I expect to see even more fantastic scenes in the future.

5. Buy Science Sets
There are science sets which can be bought from educational bookstores. They sell magnets, physics experiments, circuit boards, dissected animal models and quiz cards. They provide hours of fun and entertainment. We have tried digging for dinosaur toys that had been in caked blocks.
dino excavation 1

There are also books that show you how to do volcanic eruptions at home with simple ingredients. I wish I am more adventurous in conducting science experiments at home but I am too busy.

6. Surf the Internet and Use Apps
There are many great websites that teach science concepts at home. You can do simulations by manipulating various factors.

There are free and paid apps that teach you acceleration, galaxies, fusion and more. You could even buy a magnifying glass and attach it to your smartphone to see closed up views.

Cartoons and TV programs have internet related games and information available too. PBS has a lot of games too.

There are many online courses available. They have colourful animations that teach the concepts and children can complete the tasks. Sometimes they have a reward system that unlocks games for a certain period of time. That serves as an incentive for some children.

7. Keep Animals and Plants
Zoology and botany are big parts of science too. Depending on your comfort level, you could keep various animals. I have had friends who kept caterpillars and let their children observe how they go through chrysalis to transform into butterflies or moths. There are others who grew edible mushrooms. Tell them about the life cycles. My husband loves to breed fish. Point out their markings and explain how they are different from other breeds. This will help to hone observation skills.

It is easy to grow bean sprouts. Just get a few green beans, cotton wool and just water them. For younger children, you could just grow them. For older children, you could conduct experiments by having controls and variables for sunlight and water.

8. Visit Science Fairs, Science Centres and Natural History Museums
I am sure there are science centres in your area. Let your children explore science in a fun manner. Some places could have telescopes where you could view stars. There should also be natural science museums where they have all sorts of animals and plants. Point out the different skin textures on animals that had undergone taxidermy.
big cats

There are also science fairs where children display their experiments. Makerfaire has a global outreach. I have seen virtual reality, hologram, hovercrafts, robot cars at a recent local Makerfaire.

life hack

My children have also tried their hands at fixing Lego blocks at science exhibitions, digging for dinosaur fossils.

9. Attend Science Enrichment Courses
There are many science related courses, such as coding and chemistry. Some conduct experiments too. I do not have to clean up the mess and the course providers will take the child through various scientific topics.
fixing lego robots

There are numerous short courses available during school holidays at the local community centre, so I usually pick up the brochures and let my son decide which one he would like to join.

My son had attended a food science course that got them to make jelly, observe the changes in light due to refraction, estimate weight among other things. He learnt about mixtures and solutions. In another course, it was about dinosaurs, but the knowledge he had far exceeded what the course provider had.

He had recently asked for regular science classes. There is no science as a subject in lower primary in Singapore, so I guess I need to look for enrichment centres that do not focus so much on following the school syllabus, but those that conduct interesting experiments and expose the children to everything about science. At the same time, some of the materials I have seen are too simplified. I wonder whether there are science enrichment courses that cater to gifted children.

When he was younger, his enrichment centre incorporated simple science lessons such as using magnets.

10. Use Scientific Language
Start to ignite your child’s interest by asking good questions. Observe weather patterns. Identify the various types of clouds. Ask what happens. Get them to observe. Get them to think about cause and effect. Actually, many gifted children are already asking tonnes of questions. Use the right words if you know them. Don’t be afraid to use various terminology such as acceleration, metamorphosis, and chlorophyll. The children learn quickly. Don’t settle for words such as ‘thingy’. If you have to, use a reverse dictionary to get the right word.

This is part of a blog hop by Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page on All Things Science. Check out other blogs too!
all things science

Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

On a whim, we decided to visit the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum on 7 August, on one of the SG 50 Golden Jubilee weekend. I had gone online and found that tickets at 5.30pm were available, so I booked it and printed out the tickets (a troublesome task).

elgarmummy and boys

To avoid overcrowding, the museum only allows a certain number of people in. The first part of the museum was about plants. I used to pick up flowers in my primary school and keep them as pressed flowers in my books.

plant specimens

I was intrigued by the carnivorous pitcher plants! The plants are sweet smelling to attract insects. When the insects crawl near, they will slip into the pitchers and are unable to climb out. The enzymes will start dissolving the insects as nutrients for the plants.

pitcher plants

There was a model of rafflesia, one of the the largest flowers in the world and also extremely smelly. It is supposed to smell like rotting corpse.

rafflesia model

There is another flower that is large, has a similar name (corpse flower) and it is called titan arum.

titan arum model

There were also fungi specimens.

fungi

There was a light show at the sauropod fossils, which was nothing much. We went upstairs to take a better look.

dinosaur fossils

dinosaur light show

Gar kept asking where the T-Rex was. No T-Rex fossil dude!

At the second floor, there were many stuffed animals. The young sun bear was seated alone.

baby sun bear

There were so many stuffed birds! I cannot remember their names.

bird taxidermy

There were a few tiny cubicles for people to listen to. Only managed to get a blurred shot of the two boys here.

brothers

There were many collections by famous people from the past. My colleague who has a lot of bugs at his cubicle would definitely like this bug collection, or perhaps his son would enjoy it more as those collection belonged to him.

bugs
There was a pangolin. It looked too glossy. I am not sure whether it was stuffed or a model.
pangolinAfter we were done with upstairs, we went back to check out other exhibits at the ground level.

I liked the big cats category. There were clouded leopards, leopards, civets and others.

big cats

There were other Malayan animals, such as tapirs, and orang utans. I wonder how they died. Did they die from being captured? Or did they die naturally? The Singapore zoo also had similar animals.

malayan animals

I happened to discuss a passage on leather and other animal by-products. The processes were cruel. Some of the animals were skinned alive, and left to bleed to death. Others were clubbed to death. Kid goats were boiled alive to produce gloves.

One thing that I had seen was a tiger skin, with its tongue still intact.

tiger skin

 

The day before, my NCC students went on a course, and an instructor showed them survival techniques in the jungle. He showed them how to kill a live frog by flinging it around. They told me the frog’s organs were still moving. They also shared how chickens were killed. Some of them enjoyed the process! OMG!

There was a menacing crocodile which looked over tanned. There was also a false gharial. I enjoy getting my students to guess how to different crocodiles, alligators, gharials and other similar type of crocodilian reptiles. (Hint: Check out the shape of their jaws.)

false gharial

El poses with an elephant tusk.

fossils

I had also taught about narwhals before, which was the subject of a comprehension passage. They have a long tusk that young male narwhals like to use to joust. They were thought to be something like unicorns. I was amazed to see this for myself and admired the twirls in the tusk.

narwhal

There was even a triceratops leg!

triceratops leg

I quickly took some pictures of butterflies and some winged creatures, and then prepared to leave. It was also near closing time (7pm). Towards the end, Gar kept shouting for ‘milk’. I think he was bored stiff. El had enjoyed this trip because he loves animals. The moment we stepped outside, he stopped asking for milk.

butterflies

winged insects

We went to the shop and bought jigsaw puzzle, a science fossil kit, and a sticker book. I will probably write about the excavation of dinosaurs another time. While waiting for their father to pay for the items, we went outside and took some more pictures.

el and mummy

Their father finally emerges with the spoils.

elgardaddy

Closing thoughts: If I were to homeschool El, I think this place, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum would be a great place to go to. You can have a few ‘show and tell’ sessions from the vast amount of information here. I must admit if not for the dinosaur fossils which cost the museum millions of dollars, I would not be attracted to this place. In fact, I would not be interested in natural science if not for El. In trying to satisfy his curiosity, I have to read up a lot, and then I actually found all these interesting. My poor command of language when I was younger, also meant I would not understand all these exhibits then.

An idea suddenly springs to my mind. If students are exposed to these exhibitions at a young age, they would be able to comprehend many comprehension passages better. Many of the passages are about nature.

Gar is too young to appreciate this place, especially since his favourite T-Rex is not there. I guess slightly older children with strong interest in science (animals and plants) would enjoy this place more.The other place with a few similar exhibits would be the National Museum of Singapore, although I am not sure what they have after the renovation.

Since it is the SG 50 Golden Jubilee weekend, we wanted to go to other places that were free of charge, but we dislike crowds, so this museum at NUS is a great place for us to discover something about Singapore.

Wild Kratts

Flat-Krattsm2
After the obsession with Ben 10, El has moved on to Wild Kratts. Similar to Octonauts, Wild Kratts is about animals. Written by the Kratt brothers, they will sometimes start the show with real life action, introducing wild animals that would be the star of their shows.

Sometimes they have messages about conservation, and sometimes they just introduce the habits of the animals. I had watched an episode about Gila monster with El. It is not a crazy monster, as it is not translated from Malay. It is actually a venomous lizard, with light markings.

In the show, a child is frightened of the Gila Monster that has appeared below his house. The Wild Kratts went to his rescue in order to educate him. They transformed themselves into mini Wild Kratts, to observe the lizard closer. To make this more exciting, they added in a villain. El rattled off a few villians which I cannot remember.

Interestingly enough, in a zoo app game that we played the day after the show, there was a question about gila monsters and their locations. I had read up on the animal and I could answer him, that they are found mainly in Americas.

Again, I have no idea where he found all these cartoons. However, this cartoon is way more educational than Ben 10, which is quite violent in my opinion. Are there any other shows that are educational and interesting?

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