Thursday, April 16, 2009

Curious Minds Want To Know!

Last year a friend gave me a book titled Curious Minds: How a Child Becomes a Scientist. I love science, my friend loves science, and in fact she is married to a scientist, so I was excited to explore the book. The book is a collection of interesting and entertaining essays from twenty-seven scientists “about the moments and events in their childhoods that set them on the paths that would define their lives.”

The book is not an “ABC” guide to growing a scientist. Some contributors attribute their path to genetic factors- a predisposition to love reading for example. In fact several of the essayists remark on their love of reading. Others point to the necessity of “rich opportunities to learn” provided by parents, travel and the great outdoors. The book does not provide you with a road map to making your child love science. What reading the book did for me was remind me of the thrill of discovery. My daughter loves learning, and we are fortunate to live in a city that provides plentiful and easy opportunities to learn about dinosaurs, space, animals, or whatever the topic du jour is. While she has learned valuable information on the museum tours, she learns the most roaming (with hair free, of course) across the earth. Her mind and spirit flourish when she is fishing with her grandfather, rescuing turtles, studying clounds or just wandering around outdoors. She prefers to learn through books and doing. In fact, my favorite memory from last summer involves her stomping along the beach with her net catching and picking up anything she could find (especially anything that the older boys on whom she was spying were brave enough to touch). It was magical to watch.

Last spring my father, "Papa Charlie," helped my daughter build a garden. We grew radishes, lettuce, basil, pumpkins and four kinds of tomatoes. We dug up worms. We picked a gazillion tomatoes. We were frustrated that the pumpkins would not stay alive and had to research ways to "save" them. In the fall, Papa brought a volcano kit to build with her. They worked on the volcano secretly for a day and then took it to her preschool to launch. Needless to say it was a big success….

We need to create opportuntities for our children to experience discovery first hand. Look for these moments- whether created by a museum event, a science kit or a tidal pool.

After all, as a certain supermarket magazine used to say, “inquiring minds WANT to know.” ~ Ashley

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