From the March 2017 issue

6 Ways to Raise Science Smart Kids

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Kids are born scientists. From their earliest moments, they have a natural curiosity about the world around them. And as soon as they’re able, they start asking “why” and “how” things work.

At Detroit Public Schools Community District, teachers help answer those “why” and “how” questions with real world examples and hands-on fun.

“One of the things that we’ve been very intentional about is strengthening our science program in K-12,” says Alycia Meriweather, Interim Superintendent of DPSCD.

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The folks at DPSCD seek out innovative ways of encouraging science learning in their students. At the monthly Science Saturday, 200 DPSCD instructors are broken up by grade and learn ways to enhance their classroom instruction.

“These Saturday sessions are really focused on giving teachers the tools that they need to make science interactive, engaging and fun,” Meriweather says.

If, for example, matter and energy are being taught to fourth graders, teachers learn about different opportunities for hands-on exploration to incorporate in the following week’s lessons.

The district has also paired up with community partners like Michigan Science Center to help bring science lessons to life.

It’s a perfect match, says Dr. Tonya Matthews, CEO and President of Michigan Science Center.

“Regardless of where you find yourself, what realm you are, you will be engaging in science and technology,” Matthews says.

Beyond the classroom, there are several ways for parents to raise kids with science smarts. Here are six ideas from Meriweather and Matthews:

1. Feed a child’s natural curiosity. “The best and worst part of parenting is the ‘why,'” Matthews says. “Understand that’s actually sort of science when kids are asking ‘why is that happening?'” Encourage this ability to ask questions and seek out answers, Meriweather adds. Kids who have active conversations with their parents about science tend to test better, too, Matthews says.

2. Make the science hands-on. “The best way that parents can encourage their students, their children, to be interested in science is to give them opportunities to engage,” Meriweather says. This can be as simple as cooking at home, learning how the vacuum cleaner works and more. “Keeping science hands-on keeps it very close to the child,” Matthews adds. Once you’ve done this at home, take the show on the road and visit places like the Michigan Science Center to experience hands-on exploration in the Spark!Lab or any of the other exhibit galleries in the science center.

3. Celebrate the discovery process. This is also “code for finding the coolness of failure,” Matthews says. Your child will fail, but they should know that’s common. In fact, Meriweather says, “scientists have failed more than they’ve succeeded.” So, if your child is constructing a tower and it keeps falling over, that does not mean he should give up. Perhaps he needs a bigger base. Cheer him on and let him know you expect he’ll try to find a way to prevent that tower from falling over again.

4. Deliberately open the door to science. Who says your daughter can’t be the next great scientist? The studies that show a girl’s interest in the STEM field decreases over time don’t have to influence your daughter’s future career path. Break down barriers. Enroll her in the STEMinista Program at the Michigan Science Center, for example, or send your child to a summer camp with a STEM focus.

5. Utilize free learning opportunities. “People think that science has to happen in test tubes but science is all around us,” Meriweather says. And it doesn’t cost a penny to explore. There are plenty of opportunities for observation and education in Detroit and beyond. Visit the Detroit Institute of Arts where kids can learn the science behind preservation, Meriweather suggests. Or, take a trip to Belle Isle to observe nature and stop at the Detroit Public Library to check out some science-related reads.

6. Go on a field trip with your student. At DPSCD, parents are welcome to attend some of the science-related field trips. These field trips give parents the opportunity to see what their students are learning, ask their own questions and continue the conversation with their student at home.

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