Teaching science and social studies - tips for making it more fun for young kids

Parentree-editors 2009-09-23 10:14:15

Your young one hates to cram up his Science or EVS (Environmental Science) or Social Studies. You keep bemoaning that not much has changed from the time you were in school and these subjects were taught in such a boring manner with so much rote learning involved. It is a pity that most Indian schools still teach sciences and social studies in such a bookish manner instead of a more conceptual, applied and practical way. There is so much potential for making them fun, real, alive and meaningful for young kids. So that they can relate to these concepts in their world versus some concepts in books meant for cramming in exams.

We have some tips for making science and social studies more fun and meaningful for your school going children.

Be involved, use examples from real life to illustrate scientific and social concepts

Be involved, discuss concepts with them and give them examples of science or social studies or the environment, from their daily lives that they can relate to, instead of just complaining that the school does not teach in the right way. These examples are everywhere and will supplement and make the fun learning happen for them. The idea is to stoke their innate curiosity and imagination for learning. Once they are curious it is easy. Give concepts your own twist. For example, if they are learning about nutrition in school, then talk about protein and calcium that they eat in everyday life. Your involvement is needed not just for teaching them for exams but also for making them understand topics and making these fun for them.

Do practical projects and experiments

Do practical projects and experiments with them. Do not just wait for teachers to assign science or social studies or environmental projects. Doing really helps in understanding a topic instead of reading about it. For example, if your child is learning about what is necessary for growth in plants, grow some seeds with them - some with water, some without water, some in the dark, some in sunlight and see how the plants grow.

Supplement the school textbooks with other sources

  • Get interesting books about different topics. Read to the children. Keep the books accessible so that they can take them out when bored and read them. Scholastic has child-appropriate books on different topics like bones, rainbow, volcanoes etc. The Magic School Bus series also has fun school stories about a magic school bus taking the kids for different adventures and great learning opportunities for science and environmental topics like the earth and soil, human body, solar system, ocean life etc. There are lots more. Check out the bookstores and of course do not forget to ask the Parentree community.
  • Never ever forget the friendly Internet! There are tons of websites about all these topics. Many have fun games, multimedia presentations, quizzes etc. about educational topics. All these really make bookish topics more fun for the kids and help them to understand and retain topics much better. For example, if your child is learning about the planets and space, expose them to the NASA website, do Internet search on “space for kids” or “solar system for kids”. You will be amazed by your child’s interest in space. There are many quality websites with content that kids find interesting: National Geographic, BBC etc. What parents find is that there is no one website for all kids topics but that one has to search and find out.
    • Keep the computer and the Internet accessible. You can even create desktop icons on the screen for the current topics. So that they can just click and go! Check out articles from the Parentree collection about computers and the Internet for children.

Take your child to fun and interesting places

Don't just go to the mall and movies and for eating out. Here are some examples:

  • The planetarium. Most Indian cities have a planetarium (typically called the Jawaharlal Nehru planetarium). Take your kids to visit the planetarium often. They have educational and fun movies in the sky dome about the solar system and the universe. These really arouse their curiosity and interest in space. It is not something that you check off your list by taking them once. Take them there often. The more the exposure, the more they understand and find it fun.
  • Haunt the local museums. Seeing the historical artefacts like pottery, ornaments, tools etc. makes the bookish concepts feel real and exciting. Let me give an example from my personal life. My daughter had just finished learning about the Harappan civilization in school and I recently took her to see the National Museum in Delhi which has a huge section on Harappan civilization. Seeing the pottery, ornaments, the famous icons of the Harappan civilization like the seals, the priest king, the dancing girl were awe-inspiring even for me! It was really the highlight of her trip. We even bought some replica of seals to take with us. Holding the clay tablet in her hand for the first time, my daughter exclaimed, “They are so small unlike their pictures in the textbooks. They look like the chips for DS Nintendo.” Yeah, she could relate to them all right. ;-). I bet she will never forget what seals are now.  BTW, some museums sell plaster of paris replicas of artifacts.
  • Many cities also have natural history museums that little kids find very interesting. They typically have skeletons and fossils that are just right on for the little ones. And of course if there have dinosaur bones, nothing like it. They will be clamouring for more.
    • TIP: Make sure that the museum time is not too long - an hour or so depending on the child’s age. Anything more than that can be overkill for the little minds and their attention span.  Again, take them out often. Frequency is the key here and not the duration of the time spent.
  • Of course, make the most of the local zoos, aquariums wild life sanctuaries or botanical gardens. Seeing animals or fishes in real life makes them so real than just reading about them. Seeing giraffes have the leaves of trees, the lion in the cage tearing the smelly chunk of meat etc. makes the lessons in herbivores and carnivores and the feeding habits of animals come alive. Or seeing the different varieties of cacti, roses and plants in the botanical garden can expose them to the vast varieties of plants and can make botany textbooks come alive.
  • Sometimes it is the everyday places that can be educational and interesting - your garden, the local nursery, the post office etc.  Walk around your neighbourhood and go the local places of interest.
  • You can have your child share their interesting finds with their class. For example, if they find an interesting stone or plant that they have been talking about in class, let them take it and share. My daughter will surely share the replicas of seals (clay tablets of the Harappan civilization) that we bought from the National museum with her class. Chances are that the teachers and the class will get more excited about the topic. And of course it is an opportunity for your child to “show and tell”.

School lessons can be wonderful opportunities for you and your little ones to bond and explore this vast and exciting world together. Seize the day and have fun.

And please do not forget to share your tips and tricks with the Parentree community!


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