If a child ever says that “science is boring”, it only means one thing: we’re doing it all wrong. Studies in science shouldn’t be presented as flat, from a text book, one-dimensional, randomly introduced lessons. Rather, they should be full-color, full of life, delight-directed, in our face, sensory-rich celebrations of God’s glorious creation! In short, science shouldn’t be learned; it should be discovered.
SEVEN STEPS TO CREATING A SENSORY-RICH . . .
~Science Camp at Home~
Science comes alive in the summer. From bugs, to beachcombing, to watching the garden grow, summer is the perfect springboard for exploring the scientific wonders of creation with our children! And with our seven simple steps outlined in this post, Science Camp at Home will be a breeze as well as a blast!
TIME REQUIRED: *flexible* ; about 1-2 hours per day scheduled experiences and activities
TARGET SUMMER GOALS (click here for full list of descriptions):
☀️ = get outside as much as possible, embracing a healthy, active lifestyle
❤️ = inspire a true love for learning
🧠 = keep my child engaged and actively learning
✔️ = catch my child up / advance my child academically
😊 = have fun, de-stress, and bond as a family
STEP #1: Find what Fascinates!
What is it that your kid(s) just can’t get enough of? What would he rather do than just about anything else? What lights a fire in her eyes?
Whatever *IT* is . . . that’s where you want to start. Right in the hot spark of your child’s passion.
STEP #2: Pair with a Perfect Book!
Just as a sommelier matches a meal with it’s perfectly paired beverage, so can we practice choosing lovely books to both inspire new interests as well as expand on current ones with our children –effortlessly enriching the learning experience. Make it extra special by wrapping a book and a coinciding activity (such as a book about ants with an ant farm) and giving to your child as a gift at the start of the Science Camp week.
Here are a few sample activity/book pairings:
- A Butterfly is Patient, by Dianna Hutts Aston & Sylvia Long (ages 4+)
- Bird, Butterfly, Eel, by James Prosek (ages 4+)
- Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song, by Les Beletsky (ages 6+)
- A Rock is Lively, by Dianna Hutts Aston & Sylvia Long (ages 4+)
- Pagoo, by Holling Clancy Holling (ages 6+)
- Ultimate Oceanpedia: The Most Complete Ocean Reference Ever, Christina Wilsdon (ages 6+)
- Encyclopedia Prehistorica Dinosaurs : The Definitive Pop-Up, by Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart (ages 5+)
- National Geographic Kids Ultimate Dinopedia, by Don Lessem (ages 6+)
STEP #3: Interact through the Four Ex’s!
No matter what area of interest you and your child selected, it’s easy to bring it to life and make it a holistic feast for your child’s senses. All you have to do is remember the four ex’s below. And don’t worry, you don’t have to use all four every time 😆 ! Just run your chosen scientific topic through the filter of ex’s and see what comes up. Go with whatever is cheapest, easiest, most appealing, or all of the above!
~EXPLORE~ see and discover
Introduce your child to whatever *IT* is, but don’t force anything! Allow plenty of time and space for your child to get familiar with the basics. A book is often a great and obvious place to start, as is a walk in a park or garden. Then, gradually, immerse yourselves in what you find. Let your child discover as much on his or her own as possible, but be there to share in the joy! This is a time for interest to grow and curiosity to deepen. It’s a delicate, precious time, so savor every second.
~EXPERIENCE~ now taste and feel
Once your child knows a little bit about this newly discovered thing, she will likely make known a burning desire to embark after it. Now it’s time to brainstorm. Where can we GO to actually feel, hear, or smell this thing? Or, if we can’t actually get to it (penguins are a little hard for most of us to get to 😆 ) what can we do to get as close to experiencing it as possible? A collection of library books and documentaries can suffice for those things we just can’t get to. But whenever possible, opt for the real-life, the tangible, the sensorial, the holistic havens of life-changing experiences. This is where the magic happens.
- back yards, parks, hikes, nature preserves (for bugs, birds, flowers & fauna)
- aquariums, tide pools (ocean life)
- garden center (the world of horticulture)
- farms (for animals, crops)
- national parks (for wildlife, trees, volcanoes)
- streams, rivers (fresh water fish, mining)
- museums (for just about anything you can think of)
~EXPERIMENT~ now do something with it
It’s time to tinker! What can we DO with this thing? How can we closer examine it? How can we experiment with it? What can we find, purchase, or create to interact with this thing? Kits are a great place to start for quick and easy results. Starting from scratch will take a bit longer and, of course, results are not guaranteed. However, the inherent challenge and risks of taking a grass-roots approach are in themselves a scientific experiment 😛 , so it’s at least worth our consideration and a good and hearty brainstorm. I personally like to dabble in a little of both.
Some great kits to consider:
- Butterfly Habitat Kit (a true family favorite around here!)
- Grow a Frog Kit (this one’s up next for us!)
- Rock Polishing Tumbler (easy to find used on Ebay)
- Dinosaur Fossil Eggs
- Crystal Growing Kit
- Volcano Kit (another hit over here)
- Ant Farm (easy to find used on Ebay, just have to order or find live ants!)
~EXPRESS~ reflect and make it yours
Please, pretty please, no reports or worksheets! I’m sorry, but . . . boring! We have to remember we’re going for Science CAMP, not Science SCHOOL. So unless your child elicits squeals of joy at the mention of a “report”, please let’s move on to something more interesting. Let’s keep it fresh, fun, and more than a little free! Let’s do encourage our kids to react and reflect on the focus of study, but let’s allow them to do so in any way they choose!
journal, poetry, news article . . .
painting, sculpture, collage . . .
photography, videography, audio . . .
song, dance, theatrical arts . . .
STEP #4: Consider a Unit Study (but don’t marry to it)
If your child has developed an insatiable appetite to learn all there is to know about, say, marine biology, or outer space, or volcanic rock . . . you may want to consider purchasing a ready-to-go unit study. However, I recommend doing this only after trying out a few things on your own. Especially if your child has a tendency to flit from one obsession to the next, purchasing a large (and often expensive) unit study –only to have it tossed aside for the next great adventure in learning and discovery– can be more than a little deflating.
So, once you have exhausted some good quality books, perhaps a few grass-roots activities, and maybe a purchased activity kit, there are some great unit studies out there to help feed your child’s growing passion!
Our favorite unit studies are from The Good & The Beautiful. They are just so lovely, packed with fabulous cross-curricular information, impressively low priced, and refreshingly hands-on! Even better, they are adaptable for grades K-8th so that different aged siblings or friends can follow the unit together! Our ocean-obsessed son is currently making his way thorough the marine biology unit with another Homeschool buddy, and we couldn’t be happier with the lessons we’ve done so far.
STEP #5: Track Growth
A great way to deepen both your child’s understanding of and connection to an area of scientific study is to log it away! Document it, that is. Tracking growth, change, or progress over the course of hours, days, weeks, months, or even a year or more can be a great and easy place to start at the onset of a new science unit. Your child can have a “line-a-day journal” in which he or she writes down a daily reporting on whatever *IT* is. Alternatively, and often of more appeal to the child, a daily photograph can be taken from precisely the same point/position/angle, at appropriately timed intervals (such as every hour, or the same time once a week).
Kids LOVE this. And the possibilities are endless! Plus, it can even be implemented casually day to day.
“. . . when walking routinely, children can see the slight changes—a new car, a new roof, new spring growth or fall colors, a new sale at a shop, a new family member moving in— that herald real milestones or interesting decisions. This can and should be more relevant, and even more educational, than the rise and fall of the Egyptian empire.”Clark Aldrich, Unschooling Rules
Our family takes the same walk around our neighborhood about three nights a week, and both our kids just have to stop each and every time at the construction site of a home down the street to comment proudly on the progress. You know, as if it’s our house being built, or as if they are the ones building it 😆 . But seeing growth and change is exciting! And witnessing it indulges us in a strange sense of ownership. “Papa, they put in drywall! Mama, the roof has shingles! Look, they painted!” In addition, our kids have been relentless about “checking the garden” each and every day for signs of growth —new sprouts, new shoots, new buds, freshly unfurled petals. Witnessing real-life transformation, especially for a child who thinks that a week feels like a year, can be strangely satisfying.
Perhaps this kind of activity doesn’t seem altogether too . . . um . . . sciency. I admit it may be less obviously science-based than a pre-fabricated volcano kit. But, at the same time, I do not believe that it is any less worthy. Observation and documenting data are fundamental skills for any budding scientist. It doesn’t so much matter what your child wants to track, or what medium he or she wants to use to track it. Details aside, your child will be picking up basic scientific skills through recording gathered information. Oh, and I feel a responsibility to you and your kid(s) to stress that these skills of observation will be best mastered if focused on an area of high interest to the child. After all, the most wasteful moments of education are the forgettable ones.
Examples of things that can be tracked/measured/logged:
In a calendar . . .
- daily weather
- moon phases
- animal/bird sightings
In a photo montage or line-a-day-journal . . .
- a fruit/vegetable set out to mold (by the day)
- caterpillar growth & changes (by the hour or by the day)
- pollywog/tadpole growth & changes (by the day)
- ant farm tunnel growth & changes (by the hour or by the day)
- dough rising (by the half hour)
- single flower/plant growth & changes (by the day)
- garden growth & changes (by the day or week)
- home construction (by the day or week)
- tree changes (for a through-the-seasons year project)
- project progress (any personal project to monitor daily/weekly work)
- baby animal or chick growth & changes (by the day or weekly)
- sunrise or sunset (each day for a month or year)
Measured/compared in a notebook, or log . . .
- worms collected comparisons (rainy days vs. sunny days, cool days vs. hot days)
- birds spotted in the morning vs. the afternoon
- the growth of a plant or flower (measured daily or weekly)
- the growth in height, length, and weight of a baby animal or newborn (by week)
- growth of self in height, length, and weight (recorded weekly or monthly for a year)
STEP #6: Watch a related Documentary
A favorite indulgence of our at-home science units is to cap off the week by cozying up for a related documentary. It’s amazing how different a child’s reaction is when watching a random documentary –on a new or previously uncovered topic– versus their reaction to a documentary correlating to a current unit of study. Our son’s eyes light up as he practically levitates over the couch shouting out the names and information of things he has just learned, all coming to life in full color in our living room.
A few of our family’s favorite nature documentaries for kids:
- Dolphin Reef (DisneyPlus and I just have to say that this documentary is like real-life Finding Nemo on the Great Barrier Reef. It’s truly fantastic. Even our two year old sits through it.)
- Penguins (DisneyPlus)
- Life in Color Series (Netflix)
- The Vanishing Prairie (DisneyPlus)
- Wings of Life (DisneyPlus)
- *Miniscule; the Valley of the Lost Ants (Prime Video and NOT a documentary . . . but way too cool not to watch with any child who loves bugs. It’s like cartoon meets documentary and it’s unlike any other movie ever made.)
STEP #7: Discover new interests as you go!
This week’s butterfly unit may transform into next week’s tadpole pond as your child makes her way through the magical land of metamorphosis. This month’s volcano model may erupt into an obsession of rocks and gems! Don’t hunt down your next unit study. Let it find you.
The most wasteful of all educational experiences are the forgettable ones. So let’s make it memorable, mamas and papas! It doesn’t have to be epic, but it must be exquisite!
💛🤍💚 💛🤍💚 💛🤍💚 💛🤍💚 💛🤍💚 💛🤍💚
Thank you for reading!
Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~