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Questioning and Listening
Helping Your Child Learn Science

We should encourage our children to ask questions. A friend once asked Isidor I. Rabi, a Nobel prize winner in physics, "Why did you become a scientist, rather than a doctor or lawyer or businessman, like the other immigrant kids in your neighborhood?" Rabi responded:

My mother made me a scientist without ever intending it. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: "So? Did you learn anything today?" But not my mother. She always asked me a different question. "Izzy," she would say, "did you ask a good question today?" That difference--asking good questions-- made me become a scientist!

If we can't answer all of our children's questions, that's all right-- no one has all the answers, even scientists. And children don't need lengthy, detailed answers to all of their questions. We can propose answers, test them out, and check them with someone else. The library, or even the dictionary, can help answer questions.

We can also encourage our children to tell us their ideas and listen to their explanations. Being listened to will help them to gain confidence in their thinking and to develop their skills and interest in science. Listening helps us to determine just what children know and don't know. (It also helps the child figure out what he or she knows.)

Simple activities can help to demystify science--and we will suggest some of these later. But children also need to learn some basic information about science and about how to think scientifically. The following section contains information for parents that can point our children toward this goal.

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