Why Teaching Science to Young Children Is Important

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Why Teaching Science to Young Children Is Important

January 22, 2018

Written by: Jennifer Landis

Science lessons were the ones that we most often looked forward to in school — we were nearly guaranteed some form of fun and entertaining experiment designed to teach us about the world around us. In spite of the growing number of STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — careers that are opening up every year, science isn’t being taught or emphasized for younger children. Why is it so important to teach science to young children?

Children Form Opinions Early

Did you have favorite things that you liked to learn about when you were in primary school? That’s because children tend to form their opinions on things like that early — studies have shown that a student will usually decide whether they like a subject or not by age seven. This doesn’t give educators a lot of time to instill a love of science before these children might decide they hate the subject altogether.

It Encourages Communication

Science requires a lot of communication — and it encourages this skill in young children. Kids are naturally inquisitive, so it’s natural for them to ask questions about everything. Teaching science to kids at a young age encourages them to ask questions and seek answers to those questions — in any way possible.

Don’t discourage kids from asking questions — that’s what leads to an inevitable hatred of science. If they feel like their questions will be ignored or go unanswered, eventually they’ll stop asking, and when that happens, they may lose their love for science altogether.

It Helps Children Understand Their World

Imagine traveling to a totally new planet. Even if it’s similar to Earth, you’d still have to ask tons of questions about how the world works. That’s what it’s like for kids — to them, they’re living on a new planet, and they have no idea how it works, so they ask questions to understand the world around them.

Teaching them science takes that to a whole new level — instead of just explaining things to them, which is likely to go in one ear and out the other, teaching them how to find their own answers gives them a way to understand the world and make sense of it.

You don’t have to have all the answers — just the tools to help them find the answers themselves. Science books, especially ones that are geared for children, are a great way to start — they’re filled with accurate information that is simplified in such a way that a child can understand it without assistance. Seeing a child make a connection or find the answer to a question they’ve asked on their own is worth the price of admission — or the cost of books.

It Teaches Patience

If you’ve ever had children or worked with children, you know patience isn’t one of their strong suits — just look at a group of kindergarteners who have been asked to wait in line, and you’ll see what we mean. That is where science comes in.

Sure, some science experiments create quick results — just throw a block of sodium metal in water if you want to see a quick and explosive reaction — but other experiments require a degree of patience that might be difficult for young children. Creating rock candy or watching something grow from a seed to a full-fledged plant requires a kind of patience you don’t normally see in young children.

It Prepares Kids for the Future

STEM careers are continuing to grow and diversify as new discoveries are made and new techniques are applied to existing technologies. The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated there will be more than nine million new STEM or related careers created between 2012 and 2022. Getting kids interested in science at a young age doesn’t just help them in school — it helps prepare them for a career in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

It also helps kids learn how to be skeptical — which is essential in today’s world where we’re constantly struggling to separate real news from fake. Having a healthy dose of skepticism can help you navigate the ever-changing world. We could probably all benefit from being a little more skeptical, if we’re being honest here.

It Helps Kids Dream Big

STEM careers are exciting and potentially world-changing. While this can be intimidating, it’s also a useful tool to help kids learn to reach for the stars — literally. Twenty years ago, everyone wanted to be an astronaut, and the path to that career was limited to people who were healthy and had high grades. Now, kids can study and work toward a potential career on Mars or even farther out into the universe.

Science teaches children to dream as big as they can dream, not because the dreams are unachievable but because we’re working on ways to make them achievable. Do your kids dream of being able to catch a comet or mine an asteroid? That’s what NASA is doing right now — working on ways to catch and redirect small celestial bodies so they can be studied. These dreams are becoming a reality, and if we teach our kids to dream big, there is no telling what they’ll come up with by the time they’re old enough to start applying at places like NASA and SpaceX.

Science is so much more important than just memorizing the periodic table or learning how to grow a plant from a seed — science shapes the way we look at and react to the world around us. It affects the way we affect the planet. If more kids start looking at science as something to enjoy rather than a class to be dreaded, we might be able to start changing the planet for the better.

Educators have an important job, but parents are just as important when it comes to fostering a love for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. STEM is changing the way we look at the world — all we have to do now is offer a little encouragement to the scientists of the future.

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