How to make science projects at home come alive

Those of us who are 80s kids watched our TV counterparts build exploding volcanos, pop and bang in the Chemistry lab, and splatter the kitchen with their homemade science projects. And it looked so fun!

But “science” was never like that in real life. It was reading out of a textbook and maybe testing a solution with a pH strip once a year. For the most part, it wasn’t exciting, it wasn’t alive, and it wasn’t connected to anything else in our studies.

And, for that reason, so many of us feel ill equipped to really “do science” at home.

But contrary to our childhood beliefs, we don’t have to have the flash and bang to interest our own children in scientific study.

What we do need – and what we can do – is infuse our science study with the awe of discovery and a connection to our Creator.

You see, the hands-on projects in your Science with Friends bundles (or any other science project resource) are just a vehicle for the real discovery and understanding that will happen when you partner those projects with meaningful conversation.

So what does that look like?

Discussion should happen at every step. Begin with pre-experiment questions. What do you already know about this topic? Are there history, art, language connections that you know about? Hypothesis questions – what do you think will happen? Experiment questions – Is this the only way we could test this idea? How else could we design this invention or experiment? Post-experiment questions – What happened? Why? Was this the only possible result? How could we change our experiment?

Let your children see your own wonder. Even the simplest experiments and projects teach us something new and lead us to ask new questions. Wonder aloud. Ask questions you don’t know the answer to. What would this result be like in space? Does it reflect anything else you already knew about? Model making your own connections with them.

Connect with your Creator. Seeing that “science” is actually a study of the world that our God gave us to live in takes the subject from a school requirement to an infinite possibility. How much we can learn about God through the study of His world! How exciting it is to discover His character traits through the design of a flower or the movement of the clouds in the sky!

Never end a project without discussing all of the future possibilities. What I observe most often — and is a natural tendency in my own home — is that we finish the project and we want to rush off to the next thing. It takes some training to slow down the kids and get them to come back for reflection. But when they do, I have seen the most brilliant ideas and wonderings come forth. Take a minute. Think about what you did and what it means. What do you know now that you didn’t know before? What surprised you? (And our favorite – What made you say Wow?).

Hands-on science can be simple and yet powerful. In fact, some of the most simple projects we have done in our home have been the most powerful. But it takes time to develop the habits of asking good questions and facilitating a conversation full of wonder and delight during a science study. That’s why our science bundles focus so heavily on offering you a buffet of discussion starters for every project. That’s where the beauty is, and you don’t have to blow up your kitchen in the meantime.

Nicole Paitsel is the co-founder of Learning with Friends, LLC. A former high school public educator, she has homeschooled her children for six years, and is still learning and wondering alongside them!

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