Want to get your kids interested in science? Look for resources that make science interesting.
Most textbooks can't match "real" books when it comes to being up to date, accurate, and exciting. In fact, for years top science educators have been pointing out that popular science textbooks are filled with errors.
Luckily, there are exciting science books out there. They show readers what it's like to be a scientist, the fascinating personalities that have contributed to our understanding of the world through their research and theories, and how scientific exploration really works.
You can also investigate science in depth using magazines, TV shows, documentaries, websites, apps -- the list is endless. Here are a few ideas:
Science Reference Books
For elementary through middle school age students, the lavishly illustrated DK Eyewitness series of books are an excellent resource. They cover every subject you can think of and can almost be used as a curriculum in themselves.
More topnotch science books:
- The Way Things Work, The Way We Work, Building Big, and other books by David Macaulay
- The Story of Science by Joy Hakim
- Gonzo Gizmos: Projects & Devices to Channel Your Inner Geek by Simon Quellen Field
- The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe by Theodore Gray
TV Shows and Videos
Science shows can often be watched online or on DVD. Check your library, Netflix, or websites like PBS, National Geographic, and the Discovery Channel. Many shows also have a companion website with educator resources. With my kids, I jot down some of the concepts described as we watch, and then search online afterwards for related activities to do at home.
Recommended science shows:
Research and Industry Websites for Educators
Many science industry, research, and retail websites have classroom sections that can be adapted for home use. Often they include background information, lessons, and hands-on projects.
Useful science education sites:
- American Chemical Society
- US Geological Survey
- National Institutes of Health
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- Steve Spangler Science
Science in the Community
If your family would rather do science activities with other kids, or if you're looking for hands-on science experiences outside the home, there are plenty of options. These can range from a drop-in exhibit or open house to an afternoon program focusing on a single topic. Some places may offer a class that lasts several weeks or a semester and takes kids through a research project or teaches them a set of skills they can use to go further with outside studies or on their own. Others provide volunteer, internship or work opportunities.
Possible community science resources:
- Local homeschool groups
- Weekend, afterschool or summer enrichment programs for kids offered through the public schools, private schools, and local colleges
- Science museums (other museums often offer science programs tied in with their collections as well)
- Planetariums, observatories, space camps
- Nature centers, zoos, aquariums
- Botanical gardens, arboretums, public parks
- Hospitals, laboratories, veterinary clinics, animal shelters
- Cooperative Extension and 4-H
- Farms and nurseries
And don't forget that one of the most effective ways to help kids learn science is through hands-on projects. It's not hard to put together your own "home lab," suitable for doing science activities with younger kids and experiments with older kids.