Is science really for nerds? Well, yes it is—but I’d argue that it’s also for everyone. I can still remember being in my year 4 class at school, and all of us being asked to draw where we thought the vital organs of the body were inside us. I remember doing my best, but being shown a correct anatomy poster and being dismayed at how terrible my classmates and I were at locating vital organs. I think about the only thing I got right was where the brain and heart were.
So I was recently struck by a thought: why do we wait until kids are in school to tell them how things work? Our assumption is generally that kids are little and don’t understand. Except that they’re at a time of their lives where they soak up knowledge better than we can! Usually we’re so mortified of the “why?” question (because of how annoying it is when asked non-stop) that we give glib answers that gloss over information that could be useful.
Why not start early? Why not give your kids the best possible chance of understanding things in life? When my daughter asks about how the car works, I’ll tell her. She won’t get all the details the first time, but now she knows that the engine makes the wheels move because of the petrol that explodes inside.
She was fascinated to learn about bones in her arm: “Daddy, what’s in my arm? It’s BONES!!” (Usually followed by, “CAN WE WATCH THE BONES VIDEO AGAIN?!”—I made the mistake of showing her a youtube video showing where all her bones are).
I also quiz her sometimes on whether something is solid, liquid or gas. She likes that game because sometimes there are trick answers, like “It’s a mixture”, or “there are liquids inside you as well!” etc.
I just want her to know, from an early age, that it’s fun to learn things. It’s exciting to discover how things work, to know why doctors give you antibiotics when you have one infection, but not another.
Even though she’s only 3 at the moment, she’s excited to learn new things, and I hope it continues. Although, when I ask if she wants to be a scientist like daddy was, she says “No Daddy, I want to be a teacher.” If she keeps learning, she’d be a good one!!
(I should say: If you’re thinking that this is a strange post for someone who mostly writes about Christian fatherhood and theology, maybe check out these recent posts on science and human understanding. Also, if it makes more sense, my work background is as a scientist, so I see the fun in it.)