Building Science Skills
Tips for Parents
When you see a living creature on a walk, on television, or in a book or movie, classify it as an amphibian, mammal, bird, reptile, fish, insect, or crustacean. If you are not sure of a particular creature's category, research it together in a directory, encyclopedia, or animal book.
Observe the sky together. Ask, "Where will you find the sun in the early morning?" "At noon?" "In the evening?" And "What can we learn from the different kinds of clouds we see?"
Observe the moon together over several weeks; note whether you are looking at it at the same time every day or at different times. Note its location and draw its various shapes; be aware of the stars around it. Examine the moon chart in the weather section of your daily newspaper or on a calendar. There is almost no end to the astronomical observations you and your child can make. If, like many parents, you are not especially familiar with the sky, this exercise will be a good learning experience for you as well as for your child.
Graph the number of hours of daylight over a two-week period in the early fall, in January, and again in late spring. Ask your child what is happening; how does he or she explain the differences in the length of the day?
Ask about the scientists your child has studied. Are men and women represented? What about people of color? What does your child know about these scientists and their work?
Take your child with you when you drop the car off to be serviced. Ask your child what the purpose of the car's oil and grease is.
Together you and your child can name various parts of the body: the heart, lungs, intestines, liver, arteries, white and red blood cells, and bones. Talk about their functions. Your fourth grader should have more sophisticated knowledge than he or she possessed earlier.
Engage in physical exercise together. This is a good invitation to ask your child what he or she is learning about staying healthy. During the intermediate years, as children approach puberty, it is important that they develop good attitudes about health.
Science in school increasingly gives attention to the sources of common things and to everyday processes. You and your child can investigate questions such as, "Where does our water come from?" "What is added to make it safe for drinking?" "What is the source of our electricity?" "How is electricity stored?" "How does a motor work?" "What causes cement to crack?" "How are bricks made?"
Your child is studying the role of technology in society. Ask about the effects of television on American families, about how computers have changed people's jobs, and how air travel has changed our understanding of people in other countries.
Reprinted from 101 Educational Conversations with Your 4th Grader by Vito Perrone, published by Chelsea House Publishers.
Copyright 1994 by Chelsea House Publishers, a division of Main Line Book Co. All rights reserved.