You are a natural born scientist

Ever wondered what it looks like from the top of a mountain on a cloudy day?  This is it

Ever wondered what it looks like from the top of a mountain on a cloudy day? This is it

Have you all missed me? It’s summer vacation for most students, and I’m in the middle of my summer vacationing as well. This week, I’ve been lucky enough to spend the week vacationing with family – not just me and Mr SciGuy and the junior STEMkids, but also my parents and sisters and brothers-in-law. We’ve had a lot of fun, but blogging has not been a priority.

The other night, I was taking a quick look through Twitter, and noticed a couple posts from parents talking about STEM “a-ha! moments” with their kids. That got me thinking about something –

Kids start their lives out as scientists

We are all born as scientists. We begin life by first becoming aware that we have surroundings, and then observing them like crazy. We experiment with our surroundings to learn how things do or don’t work, and how we fit into the world around us. As we grow from children to babies, we supplement our sensory and experimental data with information through spoken word and eventually by reading. Kids often ask questions to a fault, but often times, their questions are quite insightful.  Questioning is a key way for kids to learn about the world around them.

Since I was spending the week with family, I paid extra attention to seeing the world through my kids’ young scientist eyes. It was so fun! Lots of moments that might normally just pass by in conversation, I purposely tried to refocus into questioning and learning moments. We saw a flock of geese, for example, which led to lots of questions:

Which goose is the leader? Why can’t they fly? Why are they molting? What is molting?

Brilliant question for a 2 year old:  which goose is leading the other geese?

Brilliant question for a 2 year old: which goose is leading the other geese?

We saw lots of bugs, spiders, butterflies, turtles, deer, fish, eagles, and hawks. We talked about each animal’s habitat, what they eat, etc.

Check out this guy!  I leaned in really close to get a picture, and my sister yelled at me, "bright colors mean poisonous!"  Thanks for the heads-up, sis!

Check out this guy! I leaned in really close to get a picture, and my sister yelled at me, “bright colors mean poisonous!” Thanks for the heads-up, sis!

We hiked and boated through mountains, and talked about what makes the fog at the top, and how layers of rocks are formed, and how rivers flow.

We dropped rocks into the lake to see if they float or sink, and what kind of noise they make, and we conducted a few experiments to see if you get wetter swimming or in the rain (for kids wearing life jackets, their heads get much wetter in the rain than they do swimming – kind of counterintuitive to me, upsetting to them LOL). We listened to the sounds of a sunny day, the sounds of a rainy day, the sounds in a thunderstorm, and the sounds at night.

We played hide and seek daily, which reinforced concepts of scale, and how to systematically perform a search. Aside from their inability to stop giggling as the seeker approaches, my kids are now awesome at hide and seek.

It was fabulous. I learned a lot by searching for answers to my kids’ questions, or from asking friends and family for their insights.  More importantly, I think we all had fun posing questions and looking for the answers.

So, if you ever get down on yourself, and wonder if you can do STEM, consider how far you’ve already come. You developed from a tiny human who knew nothing, to where you are now.

You know so much about the world works, but there is so much more you can learn. Instead of being intimidated by what you have yet to learn, think about how much fun your learning journey will be. Look at the world through the eyes of your four-year-old self, and don’t be afraid to ask the questions a child might ask. Sometimes, something that seems obvious may be very complex, or something that seems complex may have a very simple rationale.

Embrace your innate curiosity to better understand things. Question everything, experiment when you can, and look for resources anywhere you can. Don’t look at learning as a job, look at it as a challenge, or a game, and you will be amazed at how far you can go.

To those of you in America, have a happy and safe Fourth of July, and I’ll talk to you soon!  In the meantime, I’ll be using #kidscientists on Twitter to talk about STEM concepts discussed in my house – share yours with me on Twitter too (@theSTEMinista)

–the STEMinista

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