Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Preschool Science.

We were looking at the moon on the way home last night. It was low on the horizon and fat and full and orange. I was thinking about the long ago people who had no concept that the moon was a hunk of rock orbiting the Earth, and the Earth was another hunk of rock orbiting a fiery Sun. Those people had their own explanations, and to them those explanations were the truth. No one really questioned them.

Arielle asked "Who lives on the moon?"

My husband quickly answered "Nobody lives on the moon. The Moon has no air and we can only visit..." bla bla bla.

So, I quickly interrupted, "Who do you think lives on the moon, Arielle?"

Are you are thinking "Sara, the moon IS a hunk of rock and we thought you were a scientist. What the heck's up?"?!?

What's up is that yes, I know the age of the moon. I know what it is made of. I know a few hypotheses for how the moon was formed. I know how to calculate its orbit. But, reciting facts is not going to teach Arielle to be a scientist.

If we knew the facts and no one questioned what they were told, we would still believe the moon was a shining hunk of green cheese (orange green cheese?). If I want Arielle to come up with new ideas, I have to let her figure things out for herself. We do have books that show real pictures of the moon and give facts and figures, but those can wait a while.

-"Who lives on the moon, Arielle?"

-"The Moon Mouse and the Moon Buggy."

-"Yeah? What do they like to do?"

-"They like to sing songs on the moon. They sing Moon Songs."

I think there are two things a scientist needs to be able to do. The first is to observe nature. This is easy. Plant flowers in a window box. Raise caterpillars and watch them become butterflies. Grow a garden. Watch an ant farm. Look out the window and talk about the weather and the leaves on the trees. Collect rocks. Watch a spider spin her web. Observe the moon.

Keep a notebook. Write down what you see and how it changes. Draw pictures and tape them on the fridge.

The second thing is much harder. A scientist needs to think creatively. Kids do this naturally, but unless encouraged, they lose this ability. After you make your observations, ask questions. How does a tiny seed turn into a big flower? How does a caterpillar make a cocoon? Why are the leaves on the maple changing color? Why doesn't the moon look like it did last week?

Don't give the answers right away. Let your child give the explanation. Write it down. Save it.

Then read about it. Read fiction. Read non-fiction. Visit museums. Touch a bug. Kick a leaf. Break open an acorn.

And ask again.

-"Who lives on the Moon, Arielle?"

-"Moonielle and her MoonieBird"

-"Yeah? What do they do?"

The story will change, just like it has ever since the first humans looked at the moon. One day, she'll give the same answers my husband did, but hopefully she'll be open-minded enough to keep asking questions and to keep looking for answers.

Some favorite Moon Stories and other good books
Sorry about the Amazon links - it was faster this way. And, I have one more post to do tonight. And, a birthday cake to bake.

Moon Stories

Books about caterpillars and butterflies




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