Inspiring a Love for Science

The power of inquiry leads to new discoveries, new technologies. Cell phones, hybrid vehicles, and vaccines are only here because someone asked how, why, or what. The marvels of today and our understanding of the world are made possible by those who used the scientific method. For the human race to continue progressing, science must win over the hearts of young people.

Parents can be the strongest force in influencing their children's interest in science. That may sound like a daunting task, especially for those who feel insufficient in the subject. Luckily, no one needs extensive content knowledge to spark an interest. Irving Pressley McPhail, President and CEO of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc., believes parents need to "encourage [their children] to take on problems presented to them." This engages students in thinking about prior knowledge and in making predictions—two skills essential for scientific inquiry. Beyond that, parents can help their children identify STEM careers. If a child's interest in the field of science is cultivated, he or she may feel an intrinsic desire to learn more.

Whereas parents work to inspire their children, students are also influenced by what they read and what they see on TV. Megan Smith, Chief Technical Officer of the United States, recently described a study that reveals surprising statistics related to TV shows and their characters that have STEM careers. Of the shows studied, these characters were predominately played by men. Only one out of every five characters with a STEM career was female. Male actors outnumbered their female counterparts 15 to one when characters worked in computer science. Even though the shows are fictional works, the nonverbal message being sent to kids is that females do not belong in these careers. Whereas the message may not be intentional, perception is reality for young people. Smith adds that textbooks can also be blamed for failing to inspire their diverse reading population. She notes that through the ages, textbook companies have had to pick and choose who to include as science notables. It is no wonder why children sketch an Einstein-looking fellow when asked to draw a picture of a scientist.

Tenacious educators are making strides in how science is delivered to students so they will gain an interest in the subject and its related disciplines. The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) recently published their updated 2015 Strategic Goals. One of the goals specifically targets our youngest learners as they work to "nurture scientific curiosity among children in the earliest grades." This works hand-in-hand with another goal of NSTA: Next Generation Science Standards and STEM. Using these standards, the NSTA seeks to "revitalize science education to boost student achievement and science literacy". Thanks to technology and innovation, students, teachers, and parents already have nearly limitless access to science lessons, experiments and competitions.

The following are a few websites to visit for information that will help students gain an interest in science while strengthening their skills in the subject.

National Science Teachers Association

Becoming a member of the National Science Teachers Association is recommended for those who teach the discipline. Membership provides access to a range of journals focused on science education. Members also receive a discount on lesson plans sponsored by the association.

Be sure to visit the Competition link in the About section when you are on the site. You will find a list of current and up-coming competitions, some of which are sponsored by companies in STEM fields. Involve individual students with these or find a project for the whole class. Some of the real-world applications addressed by the competitions may spark an idea for your own lesson plan even if you do not enter contestants.

University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

This is a portal designed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research for aspiring students and teachers. On the website of University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, you will find lesson plans for all levels of science students. Their programs encourage early career scientists. Both outreach programs and advanced study programs are offered.

Siemens Science Day

Siemens Science Day is part of Discovery Education. On the website, teachers can find lesson plans for their K-6 classes. Many plans are aligned with National Education Standards, and all note the level of difficulty. Hands-on science experiments and learning activities can be inspiring for students. Here, you will find all kinds of hands-on activities to use in your classroom.

In addition to professionally created lesson plans, Siemens Science Day provides videos to extend the learning activities. If you will be teaching an aspect of science that you have not taught for some time, brush up on those topics with Siemens Science Day's materials for teacher support.

Science Kids

A great resource for students, teachers, and parents, Science Kids gives you instant access to lesson plans, quizzes, images, and jokes. One of the best aspects of this resource is that you should not need to make special shopping trips to get all the materials required for an experiment. The simple and fun science experiments for kids require everyday materials that may easily be found at home.