Building Science Skills
Tips for Parents
Observe the moon together over several weeks; note whether you are looking at it at the same time every day or at different times. (You and your child could do this exercise once a year for several years -- perhaps at a different season each year -- and learn something new each time.) Note the moon's 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.
Ask about the scientists your child is currently studying. Are men and women represented? What about people of color? What does your child know about these scientists and their work?
What does your child know about the effects of caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, heroin? Keep in touch with what your child is learning about drugs and drug abuse. Does he or she show a growing awareness of drugs as a problem? You should be aware that many sixth graders are beginning to experiment with drugs. Your local library or a counselor can suggest books that will help prepare you to discuss this subject with your child.
See what your child knows about the digestive system. Ask, "How does food change as we digest it?"
What does your child know about the different functions of red and white blood cells? (The red carry oxygen; the white fight infection.)
Ask what happens when we inhale and exhale. (Inhaling draws oxygen into the body; exhaling expels carbon dioxide.)
Science studies in the sixth grade continues to give attention to the sources of common things and to everyday processes. You and your child can investigate questions such as "Why do magnets pick up some metals and not others?" "How does electricity travel?" "How are movies made?"
Your child is studying the role of technology in society. Ask about how television has changed people's lives. What was daily life like before television (not all that long ago)? You can also talk about how medical research is keeping people alive longer, and how robots are doing much of the work in automobile factories.
Go birdwatching (or bird counting) with a local nature group. Invest in a paperback pocket guide to the bird species commonly seen in your area; together you and your child can learn how to identify species and study their habits. Each time you go to a park, a wildlife preserve, or a bird sanctuary you will learn something new about birds. Your child -- and you -- may discover a lifetime of enjoyment in observing nature.
Inquire about the local ecosystem. What does your child know about the food chain and how species of birds, fish, insects, and mammals fit into it?
Reprinted from 101 Educational Conversations with Your 6th 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.
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