A teacher was doing an experiment with his students where he held a cup of water up high with a string trailing down to the second cup lower and to the side of the first cup. As seen in the video:
The teacher asked his students to describe what was happening with the water and why it was able to go from one cup to the other without spilling onto the table.
“Newton’s third law!”
He just kept shaking his head saying, “Nope. Nope. Don’t think so complex. Just tell me what’s happening.”
And then a quiet student in the back chimes in,
“The water is sticking to the string as it travels from one cup to the next.”
She described what was happening. The teacher wasn’t looking for the scientific terms for what the water was doing or how it was happening, he was looking for an explanation. The water was simply sticking to the string.
They observed, they took it in, they learned, and the lesson moved forward.
Later in their readings when they came upon the definitions of adhesion and cohesion, each student made the instant connection to the water “sticking” to the string in the earlier experiment.
Science can quickly become a list of definitions to memorize, there is a whole new language out there of scientific jargon that can easily turn into a class of “learn new vocabulary” instead of “learn about science.”
But if you want kids to know science, to really internalize it and get excited about what science has to offer, let the definitions come later.
Introduce them to the world of plants and animals, chemical and physical changes, rocks and clouds, and stars and chemicals. And then when they’re excited and see the world change and create in front of their eyes, taking in everything going on, then give them the word to describe it.
Toddlers don’t learn what grass is by looking at a picture in a book and saying, “That’s grass!” repeatedly. They learn what grass is by sitting in it. Feeling it. Probably taste-testing it. And then hearing their caregiver say to them, “The grass is so soft! Don’t eat the grass, yucky! Do you like the grass?”
Let’s change science classes from memorizing definitions and writing out vocabulary sheets into watching, seeing, observing, and getting excited about what science can offer. And then once they’re ready for the definitions, let those come with time. And they will come if you give them that time.
Photo by MART PRODUCTION