We made a discovery! There was science before there were books! Joking aside, the most meaningful science in the world is the discovery that all life is scientific. God based all creation on an orderly set of scientific principles. So everything we do is encompassed in God's scientific realm of creation. Deep? Perhaps, but since science is so much a part of our lives, there is no purpose in separating it into its own separate slot for academic purposes.
A toddler trying to catch fireflies or holding his first beetle is learning a valuable early science lesson (hopefully the beetle doesn't become dessert!). The sciences of our world can be explored with the same orderliness in which God created our world. From our first steps out into our surroundings until our last days on this earth, we are immersed in science. Preparing food, taking care of pets or livestock, planting gardens, watching the heavens on a starry night, checking the local weather forecast on television or wiring a light switch are all part of the natural order of science.
When given the occasion to delve into any one of these topics, most children are delighted. I know as busy parents, we tend to brush aside the "Mommy, can I help slice the potatoes?" with a "Not yet sweetheart, maybe when you are a little older. Now go play." But we miss golden opportunities to build the desire to learn about God's world with the "maybe laters" in our life. That potato is filled with the wonders of nature. The study of roots for food, where it came from and why, the way we prepare it for our meal, and the way our body uses the nutrients are all part of a five-minute lesson in how to hold a potato peeler or paring knife.
I'm not suggesting we should throw all this information at our children every second of every day. Instead, let them savor the experience and ask questions. Let them watch you as you go through the mundane tasks of everyday life. In fact, their excitement might add new zest to the very chores from which you have grown weary!
It's never too early to explore life. Spend an afternoon picking up rocks, or watching ants with your preschooler. The love of science is evident when your 4-year-old asks, "What makes a rainbow?" or "Where does God live?" Obviously, we don't have all the answers, but that desire to know is real in our children and we need to mirror the same excitement when we answer their questions (whether we have the answers or not). The wonders of nature are all around you. God gave us the ultimate curriculum right in our own homes and backyards.
Most importantly, give them the tools and books they need to explore their world. Field guides, encyclopedias (an old garage-sale edition will do quite nicely), books and more books, pencils, paper, art supplies, a microscope, a telescope, building supplies (for projects - whether it be Lego bricks for the younger set or real tools for the older children), and time. They need the time and space to explore and learn about science. They need lots of time to spend watching sunrises, sunsets, or the starry night sky.
Just Look Around You
One of our most teachable moments came the very night I started this article. Our children were dragging their feet getting ready for bed (as usual), hoping to still be awake when their daddy arrived home from work at 11:30 p.m. Needless to say, he came home to find a very grumpy mom and a houseful of noisy children. His excitement changed the mood immediately! When he came through the door, he told everyone to bundle up - we were going outside. He had spotted several shooting stars on his way home. The children grabbed their coats, hats and blankets and went out into the front yard. We all huddled together under the blankets until 1:00 a.m., as we watched the most magnificent meteor shower.
The next day the encyclopedias, astronomy guides, and anything else they could dig off the shelves were strewn about the house. Now we are trying our hand at figuring out how to work our new telescope! Since this particular meteor shower (the Geminids) will be around for a few more days, we are planning on several more hours camped out in the front yard. I'm sure our neighbors are starting to wonder about us! Most people aren't exploring the night sky in the middle of December. Especially when the temperatures are well below freezing, which is another lesson in itself. The children are watching the weather maps and charting the fronts moving this way to make sure it will be clear enough to view our meteor shower blessing.
Real, hands-on science is not a subject we can get from textbooks. We can read the words, memorize the terms, and pass a test; but the very reason for learning the material doesn't exist if it's not relative to the world in which we live. So dig in, and learn the wonders of God's vast assortment of creation. Enjoy it with your children and pass on the quest for knowledge!