Thursday, April 16, 2015

Drive-By Nature

About a week ago, a large fire affected roughly twenty acres of park land near my house. I was out of town during this event, so I drove through the park this morning to see if I could find the impacted land. (I couldn't see it from the road.)

As I was driving - following all of the roads in the park, barely slowing down, never leaving my car - it occurred to me that mainstream American society today often relegates nature to experiences like this. It's as if we want a take-out order of nature, rather than staying for the real experience.

A litany of excuses ran through my mind as I drove:

- I don't have time to stop.
- I'm not wearing the right clothes.
- What if there are ticks?

The sad part is, I like nature. There is no excuse for my behavior other than conditioning and complacency. 

What barriers prevent you from experiencing time outdoors? Are they real barriers or imagined ones?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Science Literacy Starts at Home (Science Literacy Series #1)

I think the way we talk about science in this country is flawed. Too often, I hear people speak of science as a subject in school, rather than an integral part of daily life. If we want our children to be literate in science, we need to change the way that we approach the subject.

I once had a discussion with another mother in which I spoke of my love of taking my son to our local nature center.

"Oh," she said. "I don't do that. My husband does the science."

That statement of hers has bothered me ever since. It's not that she doesn't like science - I can appreciate that some people don't. It's that she is modelling the idea that science is somehow separate from the rest of her life - as if science is simply a concept that you can graft on at a later date.

Science needs to be integral to a child's life from the beginning. And by this, I mean that we - as parents - approach teaching our children with science literacy in mind.

1) Ask the what if questions. What if the sky was red instead of blue? What if we dropped this egg from the top of that building? What happens when we microwave marshmallow Easter candy? (Goal: encourage curiosity, thinking outside of the box)

2) Challenge popular thinking. Why does everyone love pop star of the moment? What makes him or her so special? Why should we buy that brand of toothpaste? What is that commercial really trying to sell us? (Goal: critical thinking)

3) Observe your surroundings. What makes this dancer better than the others? Is it the way he moves? The way he uses the space on the dance floor? How he carries himself? (Goal: observation skills, concentration) 

What do you think? How do you encourage science literacy at home?