Getting Children Interested In Science Again
Children are considered to be natural scientists. So why is it then, that so many children quickly lose interest in science at school? Why do they go from exploring (frightening the life out of you when disappearing in a supermarket), experimenting (making constant irreparable damage) and questioning ‘why?’ to everything (everything!), to the position that ‘science just isn’t for me’? How does this happen? And how can we get children interested in science again?
In this country, not only do we have a predicted skills shortage in science, but also, the science community isn’t as diverse as we would want. It is still dominated by white, middle class males which, in turn, means that research will mainly be conducted by white, middle-class males. This isn’t always a good thing.
So, what is happening early on in a child's life? What is it that is causing them to lose interest in science and what can we do to renew children’s interest in science? The answer may lie with what has been termed ‘Science Capital’. Science capital is about our relationship with science. How much we talk about it, how we engage with it and what our attitudes are towards ‘sciencey stuff’. Someone who works in the science community, watches programmes on it or visits science museums, are going to have a lot more science capital. Let’s look at it another way: Imagine that you have a bag and that bag is your science capital bag. The more of the ‘sciencey stuff’ put into your bag, the more science capital you have.
The very same principle goes for children. The bigger their ‘Science Capital Bag’, the more likely they will maintain an interest in science. But not every parent has science capital. So what do you do if you don’t have a lot of science capital but want your child to consider science as an option? Let’s take a look:
The Eight Dimensions Of Science Capital
So, how do we fill our child’s science bag? Researchers have identified eight dimensions of science capital and they include:
1. Science Literacy- Does your child know what is meant by science and how it works? Do they have confidence in their ability, for example, to know the names of laboratory equipment or how to conduct an experiment?
2. Science-Related Attitudes And Values- Is your child able to value science and its relevance? From understanding how water comes out of a tap to the changing seasons and climate, promoting scientific values can be powerful. For example, the recent action that children have taken on plastics and pollution.
3. Knowledge About The Transferability Of Science- Can your child identify how scientific skills can be used in many different areas? From becoming a chef to a special effects artist, the application of scientific skills can be very broad.
4. Consumption Of Science-Related Media- This can be enjoying TV and film (Jurassic Park was always a hit in our house), reading books and magazines, or watching You tube experiments online.
5. Participation In Activities, In And Out Of School- Not everyone has access to after school clubs or local museums, but science related toys and activities that use common kitchen ingredients can help.
6. Family Science Skills, Knowledge And Qualifications- It’s great if family members are working in a science-related role but even family who just have other scientific interests, growing plants from seed for example, can be very beneficial.
7. Knowing People In A Science-Related Job/Role- Being able to talk to wider group of family, friends or peers who work in science related roles.
8. Talking To Others About Science- Everyday life is full of opportunities to talk about science with friends, parents, siblings and neighbours. In fact, the more it is talked about, the more knowledge and confidence are gained.
Companies such as Elementary Sciences are developing high quality science kits for parents, homeschoolers and teachers. Many of these kits are designed to help children learn about science in a fun and interesting way.
The science capital teaching approach was developed as part of the Enterprising Science project, a 5-year research and development partnership between King’s College London, University College London, Science Museum Group and funded by BP. You can find out further information by going to: www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe-sciencecapital