Encouraging Curiosity: STEM Starts Now!

October 5, 2020
Family Support
Recreational/Spiritual & Cultural Enrichment

by Joseph P. Cox, President & CEO | Museum of Discovery and Science

Young children naturally ask approximately 300 questions each day! Why? They are born curious. Children are organic, effortless investigators, questioning everything in their world. As parents and partners in early childhood education, we get to encourage that curiosity to help bring about future scientists, engineers and South Florida’s workforce! Connecting children to inspiring science in their daily routine drives their interest, invites moments of wonder and ignites a passion for exploration. When we fuel children’s insatiable need to learn more with science, we open up their minds to true discovery.

Science is all about questioning, too.We call it “inquiry.” There is an exciting and powerful link between STEM (the combining of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and early childhood learning. STEM has a positive impact across all learning and can enhance later educational and career outcomes. We know from research that basic science literacy leads to important skills development in young children, including the ability to read and write. STEM exposure in early childhood helps kids learn how to make predictions (What do you think will happen next?), understand cause and effect (If I leave an ice cube on a hot summer sidewalk, it will melt), comprehend sequence (first, next, last) and build a rich vocabulary.

A STEM-focused mindset infuses a passion for science and inspires imaginations in little learners. STEM experiences encourage life skills including communication, listening and observing, analyzing and creative problem-solving. Children light up around STEM because it is also incredibly fun, hands-on and sometimes messy!

Every young child has access to STEM learning, and every parent can create an environment where asking questions and trying new things are encouraged. Just look around and explore! Science can feel like magic, and that’s the moment of discovery for which we strive to achieve for each child.

With this in mind, we are sharing some ideas and fun at-home science experiments for early learners.

Backyard and Kitchen Table Science for Little Learners

It’s your turn to ask the questions! Engage your child with these interactive experiences. ALL STEM activities must be supervised by an adult.

• Bath time is math time! Count fingers and toes with your kids. Bring in measuring cups to pour and measure.
• Take your child on an outdoor scavenger hunt or nature walk.
• Engineer a structure with toothpicks and marshmallows. How tall or strong can your child build a tower or bridge?
• Start a rock collection. Compare the rocks and the differences between each. Size, color, weight and more.
• Your child can be a meteorologist! Track weather patterns and chart the daily temperature.
• Let your child play with bubbles to learn about geometry, shapes and air movement.They can observe sizes, and try different techniques. How long before the bubble pops?
o Materials Needed:
• Water
• Oil
• Cup
• Food Coloring

o Teach your child new vocabulary words, such as Liquid (something that is wet that fits in any shape, but cannot hold the shape on its own), Density (is the amount of space something takes up. Their bed takes up space, the kitchen table takes up space; air takes up space.)

o Your child can learn about sequencing, predicting questions and cause/effect:
• First, pour some water into oil. Ask your child what do they think will happen?
• Next, add drops of food coloring to the oil and water. Ask your child if they think it will mix together? Why or why not?
• In the end, ask them what they think will happen when oil, water and food coloring are mixed together?

o Materials Needed:
• Pennies
• Baking Soda
• Vinegar
• Old toothbrush
• Paper Towels

o Teach your child new vocabulary words with basic explanations such as reaction (What happens when we mix things together. Sometimes we see it and sometimes we don’t), acid (the yucky feeling when you have a tummy ache), Base (the pink liquid a parent might give you to calm the tummy ache)
o Your child can learn about sequencing, predicting questions and cause/effect. Ask your child:
First, we put some baking soda on a penny. What do you think will happen to the penny?
Next, we add vinegar to the baking soda? What do you think will happen now?
What happened to the penny in the end? Why?
Last, we recommend having your child repeat this experiment for more penny-cleaning fun!

With early exposure to STEM, we can open young minds to future careers in some of South Florida’s essential industries including technology, environmental, life and marine sciences, aviation, aerospace and more. STEM starts now! 

The Museum of Discovery and Science (MODS) empowers children from preschool to career. The Museum’s commitment to early childhood outreach is a deeply rooted pillar in our heritage. MODS’ early childhood Sprouting STEM classroom is presented by PNC Grow Up Great®. The Museum welcomes individuals from all walks of life to visit, experience, connect and discover inspiring science. We support all family structures, creating a culture of hospitality where diversity is celebrated. Our doors are open to everyone: individuals and families with physical and emotional disabilities and disparities in education, social and economic status. Contact us today or come by for a visit.

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