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Taking Science Back to School


Hands-On Science Wins Hands-Down


Solar Powered Summer


Quirky Kids in All Their Glory


Helping Young Minds Take Flight


Let The Fun Begin, with Science!


The Science of Play


Pulling the Plug on Programmed Learning


Out of the Classroom and Into the Woods


Nature's Grammar


Mother Nature Strikes the Balance


School's Out, Let the Learning Begin!


Bringing Science Home


The Natural Child in a Digital World


Science Nearly Extinct in Bay Area Schools


"What If?" Science: Turning a Science Fair Project into an Experiment


Choosing the Best Camp for Your Child


Getting Lost in the Great Indoors


Sarah Shaffer on making Nobel winners out of science campers


Taking Science Back to School

Taking Science Back to School

By Sarah Shaffer

There's something about the classroom that can give science a bad rap. It doesn't have to be that way. The best science education captures the best of play, but too often the specter of being graded on right or wrong answers can introduce an element of anxiety that overrides our children's creative curiosity. If your youngsters have been fortunate enough to have experienced a summer filled with unstructured outdoor time, they've already been engaged in the kinds of exploration that defines science. They just may not call it by that name. What can parents do to make sure our kids take a happy sense of discovery with them as they head back to school and the confines of the formal classroom?

It starts with nurturing your own sense of curiosity. During the school year, it's more important than ever to remember that learning is fun. The thing I love about science is that there is still so much we don't know, still so much left to be explored. Each new discovery opens the door to an ever wider world, filled with wonders we might not have imagined possible just a few years ago. Scan the headlines in the science section of the newspaper and talk with your kids about what you find there. Even things we thought were established science can be challenged. Do you have a son or daughter who is wild for dinosaurs? Ask them to weigh in on whether they were all killed off by an asteroid slamming into the earth or perhaps by a more gradual series of volcanic eruptions that ripped the earth open, spewing forth chemicals and ash that caused mass extinctions. In either case, the scientific investigations have all the dramatic elements of fire and fury found in their favorite scary stories.

Talk with your children about what they're learning in school. Banish the fear of being wrong by admitting that not even you have all the answers. Ask them why they think plants turn toward the sun. Encourage them to come up with possible answers and ways they could test each of them. Scientific discovery is just that. Discovery. And, of course, as someone who runs outdoor science and nature camps, I am a big believer in making sure your kids treat Mother Nature as their own private cabinet of curiosities. Science is an exploration, an adventure, a detective story, a puzzle waiting to be solved. As your children head back to school, make sure they take a love of science back with them. And if you sense that formal instruction is taking the edge off some of that summer-inspired eagerness to figure stuff out, you might want to explore various after school science enrichment classes where fear of failing is not part of the educational equation. Keeping a passion for science alive is as easy as nurturing a playful sense of fun and discovery.

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Sarah Shaffer, award-winning educator, has been offering unique science and nature programs for children, parents, and teachers for over twenty years. She takes children outdoors all summer at This Land is Your Land Summer Day Camp. More information about Sarah's Science can be found at www.sarahscience.com.


Space still available in all weeks of summer camp!



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