The boys and girls are born scientists . They are curious about nature and doing science from the moment they are born. They watch and play with their hands and feet, with blankets and toys, and with anything nearby. They look, manipulate, move things around, throw and chase.
However, it has been reported that as they progress from primary to secondary education, students lose interest in science, especially girls.
In an educational context, scientific literacy can be understood as the process of asking questions about the natural world, generating hypotheses, planning a strategy, and collecting and analyzing data to answer the question.
Are we facing a scientific future?
If we had to describe a scientific boy or girl, among others, they would present the following characteristics:
- He is curious to discover his environment and interested in learning about it.
- He is observant.
- His games include ordering and classifying objects according to criteria such as color, shape, size…
- Look for causal relationships to phenomena in your environment.
- He is interested in scientific data such as the size of dinosaurs or the speed of airplanes.
- He is interested in manipulation and experimentation.
- It is capable of extracting patterns from data.
- You are concerned about the challenges facing society.
- Justify your explanations.
- He is creative and capable of innovating.
Richard Feynman , one of the most important physicists of the 20th century, remembers having interesting talks and discussions with his father about the reason for certain behaviors of birds, the inertia of toy wagons, the height of dinosaurs, etc.
As he explained, “at that time I thought all parents were like that. He motivated me for life. Today I continue looking like a child for the wonders that I know I am going to find in science”.
When Isidore Rabí , Nobel Prize in Physics, was asked what had helped him to be a scientist, he replied:
As they left school, all the other Jewish mothers in Brooklyn would ask their children what they had learned that day in school. Instead, my mom would say, “Izzy, have you asked yourself any good questions today?”
Tips to help and encourage
- Promote curiosity. Bring them closer to discovering what they are made of and how the things around us work by manipulating different materials.
- Formulate questions. To fix their attention on details of the world around them and encourage them to look for explanations. Sometimes it is considered that it is enough to confront child students with surprising experiences, which arouse their curiosity, but which are not explored in depth since their cognitive capacity would not allow them to understand the phenomena involved. If it is accepted that this is not the case, but that it is only a starting point, we will find that the interest of children in nature issues is immense.
- Let them try. Fostering their autonomy when looking for solutions to problems is not an easy task since it requires a lot of patience, but it is a key point to give them the opportunity to build their own knowledge that helps them understand and function in the real world. Constructive questions during the process by adults can help and serve as scaffolding for children in the construction of their own knowledge. It is not necessary to give the correct answers, children do not expect them.
- Do not expect them to memorize scientific concepts and theories. It is about doing more than acquiring. Observe, formulate hypotheses, find relationships between facts, ideas or causes and effects, argue… In short, understanding is more interesting than memorizing .
- Use the game and imagination. It is good to propose daily challenges or problems so that they try to solve them.
- Visit science museums. For years, science museums have incorporated new interactive facilities, activities and resources that actively encourage children to explore and better understand their content.
- Visit natural spaces. Playing in and with nature, manipulating natural elements, observing natural phenomena, experimenting with all of this.
- Create science contexts at home. Plant a seed, observe how the plant grows and what it needs. Build a paper helicopter and modify its design so that it can fly farther. Observe the birds that come to the garden and record their behavior in a journal. Make a sponge cake and think about why bubbles appear inside…
At the institutional level, there are interesting initiatives such as the STEAM strategy to promote scientific-technical education and training, which also pays special attention to female students in order to reduce the gender gap that exists in this area.
Within the framework of Science Week, generally held in November at the European level, there is a wide range of scientific activities in different formats available to everyone in most cities.
Regarding extracurricular activities, the most successful options in the field of science are robotics and programming, related to technology and engineering. But, although less successful, more and more science workshops are offered that propose practical activities of experimentation, investigation and observation.
In addition, there are several schools that are committed to the Forest School methodology , of Nordic origin, based on outdoor learning using natural resources. It would be desirable to offer extracurricular courses based on this methodology.
Classes or directed activities not only feed the scientific spirit. Those that are developed in nature, although they are not focused on scientific practice, allow curiosity and interest in science to be aroused .
We refer to excursions with free time groups or sports in contact with nature such as surfing, snorkeling, mountaineering, hiking, horseback riding, climbing…
With a little attention to the curiosity and interest they show, it is possible to see if this innate attitude can become a lifelong vocation.
Author Bios: Teresa Zamalloa Echevarria is Associate Professor in the area of Didactics of Experimental Sciences and Ainara Achurra is Associate Professor in Education both at the University of the Basque Country / Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea