So, my science education sucks. Like, I went to a creationism school until 8th grade, so I'm missing some serious basics. And the education was book learning only, so few field trips, no microscopes, no experiments, no anything. I took chemistry, physics and biology in high school, but they didn't really sink in and I could get by with memorization for those. And then I took wimped out in college and didn't take my science classes at my school where I might have actually learned something.
This hasn't really been an issue until the Rhymer got old enough to ask a lot of questions. And I'm embarrassed having to defer the questions about evolution and botany to his dad.
I follow some science people on G+ and it's tough even reading pop science because I'm missing so many basics. So, where the hell do I start?
I am a huge fan of Khan Academy www.khanacademy.org/
1st Kid out grew his science teacher a few grades ago and I use it for his science education at home.
Brainpop? It's basic, but very accessible.
Maybe watch some science docs/shows with the Rhymer? There are a few on Netflix - I haven't looked to see what's available for younger kids, but there may be something. I grew up on a steady diet of Mr. Wizard and my brothers watched Bill Nye. I did see that there are some NOVA for kids available on streaming, but I'm not sure what age they are aimed at.
You have an excellent science museum there, and they'll have education liaisons on staff (my 5th grade teacher left teaching in schools to do this at our science museum in my hometown). If you call one and pose this question to them, they'll be happy to provide you with a wealth of information, I bet.
My dad was an elementary school science teacher, and I'm so lucky he was. My brother and I devoured all things science when we were growing up. There's a science journalist named Bob McDonald here in Canada, and he had a show for kids called Wonderstruck, and I loved it. We also had a book based on the show, but I see that it is essentially nonexistent now, although I found a Wonderstruck II book used on Amazon. That and OWL TV (OWL was a Canadian nature and science magazine for children) were staples of my childhood. Add in Square 1 for Math and that was TV heaven. Bob McDonald has a show on CBC Radio One (www.cbc.ca) called Quirks and Quarks, which is really a great thing to listen to: it's the only real science education I get anymore.
As for evolution, I have this saved in my Amazon file:
You'll actually find there are a LOT of children's books out now that explain these kinds of concepts. Hope some of this helps!
Thanks. We returned from one of our science museums today, so I'm continuing my education :-) And we did watch a nature film there, so I mentioned the idea of watching more nature films and TV shows. We'll see if that catches one. And if it doesn't catch on with him, perhaps I will have to watch more on my own. The TV idea is a pretty good one. Either Nova or Khan or whatever.
I think the problem is that you have to really understand something to explain it to kids and I think that's what I'm missing. I could do the chemistry or psychics or genetics math to succeed in the class. But I didn't really get it. So, I'm struggling to explain it to him. So, I'll keep working until I get it.
GG: We have that Our Family Tree. I guess I like it, but I think I feel like it's trying too hard to be literary and doesn't quite pull it off, so I just wish it was more expository.
I read Owl magazine for years. Someone gave me a subscription. I also kept getting docked points in school for writing honour or colour or whatever. Darn you Canadians! (Shaking fist).
Museums are my faves, just because it's hands on and you do stuff. Also, I think a big thing is not to be embarrassed that you don't know, or defer. When I don't know I just tell Smudge I don't know. We write down the question and we look it up later when we get home and get a chance. There are areas I don't know crap about, but I do know how to research. Rather than feel like you have to know all things at all times (which, seriously, people have smart phones and the internet now) I think the most important thing to help your kid develop is good research skills, how to find info and how to determine which is the useful info (believe it or not, most people stop at the first five google results, which is a terrible marker of the evidence's reliability).
All great suggestions, so I just want to add that there's no shame in saying "that's a really hard thing to understand and I need help with it too so let's look it up" or even "you know, daddy remembers more science, let's ask him for a good explanation." I know I struggle with that sometimes, but the fact is in my family it's true ( and believe me, since his dad and I are divorced and I kind of hate his father, it kills me to say that about some stuff). But there are just times when even if I do understand something, I'm NEVER going to be the one to offer a coherent explanation to my child.
You know, in theory, I agree with you all about research. However, I think, just like we expect basic political science (how a bill becomes law) for polite conversation, I do think I should have some basic science knowledge in other to be able to talk about plants, planets in day-to-day conversation.
The loupe looks fun, Oracle.
And saying that I need to know more has made me already make an effort, so I think I'll get up to a conversational level soon!
I am a total science nerd. I teach intro physics and astronomy at the U in town and I've always been into pretty much all science, even if those are my favorites.
One of my new favorite things for this are podcasts. There are tons of science-y type podcasts that are at a general level and also lots for kids. My absolute favorite one right now is Astronomy Cast. They have an astronomy professor and a science journalist--one plays the 'member of the general public' and the other explains the questions in a really accessible way. Since I teach intro astronomy, I'm already familiar with most of the content of that particular podcast, but I have gotten loads of ideas for good ways to explain some of it to my students. Plus, it is kind of fun to listen to. And the astronomy prof has one of the best, sexiest voices ever.
Also, books. Dava Sobel writes really good books about various things in the history of science (Galileo's Daughter and Longitude are my two favorites of hers), but they also have lots of good actual science type info in them as well. And they are *very* accessible to the general public. Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything is excellent as well, with some fun historical facts mixed in with basic information from pretty much every science, from astronomy/physics to biology. Richard Dawkins also wrote a book for kids called The Magic of Reality that is excellent. It is meant for kids, but I enjoyed it a lot as well. It isn't one of what I like to call his atheist books (although I enjoy those too), but it is more of a general science education book. And For the Love of Physics by Walter Lewin is also excellent. He's a physics prof at MIT and it is kind of a memoir, but it includes lots of fun stuff like how rainbows are formed and other things that he teaches and demonstrates in some of his classes. And I teach a class called the physics of everyday life, meant for non-science majors who *really* aren't proficient in science, and the book that I use for that is How Everything Works, by Louis Bloomfield. It is a condensed version of another book, How Things Work, by the same author that is way more expensive. It is an excellent book that explains the basic physics behind lots of everyday items, like circuits, rainbows, sports, etc. Another, similar book, is Physics for Presidents, but I don't remember the author for that one.
Thanks for this, ks! I'm excited to check those out for the Dragon now!
So that Loch Ness story that circulating around? The one that says there's a science curriculum that teaches that the Loch Ness is real; therefore dinosaurs exist; therefore evolution is false. Yeah, that was my curriculum for first through eighth grade. Beyond offering up false information, it's also just terrible curriculum. Here's a pretty decent article on why.
BTW, links you have provided and videos I have been watching have me totally excited about science. This is a pretty cool planet we live on. It's fun to learn about it. With real science, not the Noah's Ark version.