February 1, 2010

Engaging Your Kids in Science, Engineering, and Technology

By Tegan Strautmann, Pinellas County Extension Volunteer Intern

Everyday when you turn on the news, radio, or open up the newspaper you see evidence of science, engineering, and technology advancing at a very rapid pace. Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea seem to be leaps and bounds ahead of America. Whether it’s with cars, cell phones, robots, or celestial-body-revolving satellites, they have beaten us to the punch. As sad as it is to say, America is not responsible for the start of much of this progression. We, as a country, are falling behind in our science, engineering, and technology fields for various reasons and many believe it is time the tables were turned.

One easy way we can start the mend of this misfortune is to further implement science, engineering, and technology in our children’s education, in school and out. This would be the first step in giving America the change of pace that it needs. If you teach children HOW to think like a scientist, engineer, or technology expert it will allow their brain to grow and develop the skills to actually become one.

That leads me to the point of this article, scientific inquiry. There are four basic steps in this process. It was stated that “At all stages, factual knowledge is not as important as critical thinking skills, including: 1) knowing and applying scientific explanations to the natural world, 2) generating and evaluating scientific evidence and explanations, 3) understanding the nature and development of scientific knowledge, and 4) participating in scientific practices and discourse.” Let me elaborate.

The first step in this process is evaluating the question at hand. Putting something intriguing in a child’s hand or puzzling in their mind gives them what it takes to get their “wheels-a-rolling” or brain really thinking. Providing them with a broad question will give them the chance to brainstorm and come up with many different solutions or answers to the question. This allows them to use their creativity, something that most scientist, engineers, and technologist find imperative to discover new things and to create new designs.

Second, a hypothesis needs to be formed. This allows a child to establish an explanation from which they can outline potential predictions. “What will be the outcome of your experiment and why will that happen?” This is a simple question to ask them to help them develop their hypothesis before going on to the third and most important step.

Step number three is experimentation and exploration. This hands-on element is one of the most significant steps in the scientific process. Why? This gives children the experience they need to understand what is happening the way that it is happening. Furthermore, this provides them with the opportunity to compare different ways of doing things. It shows them changing one component of the experiment may yield entirely different results. Witnessing this change will help them comprehend the science, engineering, or technology behind the experimentation or tests performed. In addition, this may even help them form their hypothesis for future experiments as well.

Lastly, discussing their observations will lead them to form a set of conclusions. Ask them “Was your hypothesis accurate? Did you predictions make sense? How can you explain what happened during your experiment?” This will give them the skills to use the data they collected during their experiment. If they don’t know how to interpret and relay to others what their experiment demonstrated, what was the point in doing the experiment in the first place?

Some programs across the country, such as 4-H SET (Science, Engineering & Technology) have already begun this innovative process that is providing children with the skills and abilities that it will take to become the scientists and engineers of OUR future. Increasing global competitiveness by advancing our technology with techniques like these will be the key factor to helping America get back on top!

Encourage your kids to visit the 4-H SET Kids web pages which will provide them with dozens of fun, hands-on educational games to increase their science, engineering, and technology abilities.


Science with Kids, Science by Kids

Critical Indicators of Youth Development Outcomes for 4-H National Mission Mandates

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