Thursday, November 18, 2010

"And the Flowers are Still Standing!!" How to Do the Tablecloth Trick, Plus Good Advice for Parents: Get Your Kids Excited About Science





In case any of your guests tomorrow want to go for it.  Via SteveSpanglerScience.com, an amazing site with all kinds of cool experiments to get your kids excited about science.  I added one of my favorite Steve Spangler videos: the Cornstarch Walk, the most fun a kid can have learning about non-Newtonian fluid.

Browse the site for ideas for fun things you can do at home.  Science is fun.  Many of the experiments on the site are goo- and/or ooze-related, and what's more fun than that?

My five-year-old goddaughter is crazy about math and science... though not as much as she is about Ariel and Ghostbusters.  She loves learning about the elements, anatomy, astronomy (her favorite planet is Saturn), and many more subjects, and has been that way since she was two-years-old.


She recently amazed her nursery school teacher by announcing that raccoons are nocturnal, having learned about nocturnal vs diurnal years ago from her mom (who is also extremely smart).  And when she asked me what you call an animal who likes to be awake only at sunrise at sunset, I was stumped and had a chance to learn something new myself. We looked it up together, and turns out it's crepuscular.  We both learned that dogs and cats are crepuscular by nature, and the fact that we make them stay up all day with us is why they nap all the time.  Who knew?

Science is a natural fit for the smallest child; after all, science is the closest thing to magic we have in the real world.  If you think about it, there are opportunities to teach kids about science all around. For example, take astronomy.  Kids obviously love stars and planets, so they're eager to learn about them.  And even if you think something is too hard for a small child, it probably isn't.  For instance, many of the celestial bodies have names as appealing to kids as Disney characters.  Especially Pluto.

It's never too early to get your kids ready to excel in school, especially in those subjects you may be a little rusty on.  The more they learn now, the less they'll rely on you for homework help later, when the homework gets too hard for us adults.  I know that between now and when my goddaughter hits junior high, I am going to have to work on my geometric proofs, of which I remember none.

Beyond school, preparing your children for a high-paying, rewarding career is more important than ever, and in the 21st century, science is where the really good jobs will be.  If your kids love math and science it will pay off in the long run, I promise you.

I know we Americans tend to value "folks with common sense" over "math nerds" and "science geeks." We think of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs... but haven't they done pretty well for themselves?  (Okay, they're both college dropouts, but you get what I mean.)  And math and science don't just prepare you for careers in those fields.  Mick Jagger graduated from the London School of Economics (which ain't easy to do), and by no coincidence is well-known for his attention to his vast finances.

Natalie Portman and Lisa Kudrow earned degrees in psychology and biology, respectively.  Ashton Kutcher majored in biochemical engineering, as did Terrence Howard and Cindy Crawford in chemical engineering; of course all three left college when life had other plans, but I had to mention Cindy Crawford since she went to Northwestern... as a high school valedictorian on a full-ride scholarship. I don't know about you, but Cindy Crawford is my kind of geek.

No one ever wished they had less education.  And science and math in early life are proven gateways to better performance in all school subjects, as well as a more successful career.

Sorry I went on and on, but I admit I have a selfish reason for giving y'all this advice: Like everyone else on Earth I am counting on your kids to come up with answers for all the problems we face.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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