When I, as a teacher, work with kids, there are certain topics I really wish parents would include more into play time with their children. Learning how to teach students best when it comes to science can be scary 😨 and confusing. 😕
What makes a good science student, to me, is a student who is engaged. This only happens if they know the importance of the following topics.
Take a look at the following topics and try to turn the experiments into games on the weekends! Students learn science best, when they don’t even realise that they are actually learning science. 🤓
Topic 1 : Energy.
What are the main types of energy?
I know that energy can be a difficult topic to understand. Follow my advice and your kids will learn in no time! As long as you have the basics down you will know how your kid learns science and why this topic is important ⚗️.
Firstly, we have to look at what types of energy we are working with before we can learn about anything else.
What are the main types of energy?
- Chemical energy 🧪
- Electrical energy 🔌
- Gravitational energy 🍃
- Kinetic energy 🕺
- Mechanical energy 🔩
- Nuclear energy ☢️
- Solar energy ☀️
- Sound energy 🔊
- Thermal energy 🔥
- Potential energy 🌾
I understand the list seems long! However, I will break it down for you and suggest examples for your daily life to help you and your child understand!
What is chemical energy?
This type of energy comes from the bonds between molecules. The food we eat counts as chemical energy!
Where does electrical energy come from?
This energy comes from tiny charged particles called electrons. Lightning and the electricity in our house are both examples.
Who needs gravitational energy?
You remember that man who watched an apple fall and thought of gravity? This energy type is basically just that. Gravitational energy comes from the gravitational force that surrounds the planet we live on.
Do I use kinetic energy?
Do you like to move or dance? You won't realise it, but you are producing kinetic energy!
Where do we find mechanical energy?
The tension stored within objects is known as mechanical energy. A simple way of seeing this is a stretched rubber band.
Why do we use nuclear energy?
Not as new as you think, nuclear energy has only recently been turned into electrical energy. We get this energy when the tiny atoms that make up the universe are joined together or split. These splits do not give off harmful chemicals. However they are unstable at the best of times.
What is solar energy?
Solar energy is any energy that comes from the movement of light, and our main source is the sun.
Examples of sound energy?
Have you ever seen those videos where they make paint move with just music? Well this is a great example of sound energy. The vibrations of an object do create sound.
Do I use thermal energy?
Thermal energy is created when molecules move, and the energy that comes from that movement is thermal energy. Fires and certain light bulbs 💡 create thermal energy.
What about potential energy?
This is when an object has the potential to be any of the above types, but it is waiting for the situation to be perfect.
Topic 2: Energy transfer.
What is an energy transfer?
We can look at the next part of learning about energy, but first we need to understand a certain rule about energy.
Any good science student knows this rule, and so should you. ☝️
This rule applies to any type of energy listed above.
Have a look at some examples of the transfer of energy and some experiments you can use to teach kids this without them even knowing! 😲
What is an example of transfering solar energy into chemical energy?
We all know the process known as photosynthesis. So through this process plants🌿 take the energy from the sun and turn it into food for other means.
During photosynthesis the plant gives off certain chemicals and through a simple water experiment we can see how easily plants photosynthesise and give off these chemicals!
How can I get my family to transfer chemical energy to kinetic energy?
This experiment will be fun for the whole family. Take something your family enjoys eating and put it out on a table. However, if someone wants some of this treat, they must eat it and then dance. 💃
This is the perfect example of turning chemical energy (the food you eat) into kinetic energy (the dance moves!)
Is it safe to transfer chemical energy to thermal energy around kids?
This type of energy transfer is very simple to represent, by burning a candle,🕯️ or starting a fire 🔥. You are changing chemical energy (found in the wax or the wood) into thermal energy (the fire). I know this can sound scary. However be safe with fire and always make sure the fire is put out before you leave it.
However, there is a better know version of this energy transfer, and that is the burning of coal that eventually gets transferred into electricity. In my opinion there are so many more positive ways of getting energy that does not leave harmful chemicals in the air around us🌱.
There are of course many more types of energy transfer. However, not all of them are used on a daily basis. It is important to know that any good science student can also recognise that we as a society need to work on more renewable forms of energy ☀️.
Topic 3: The Galaxy Around Us.
How do I explain this to my child?
First off, as a teacher, I can understand that not everyone wants to learn about our planets and their order. However, learning about the basics when it comes to space 🌌 and galaxies is an integral part of understanding key elements in physics, like gravity.
We can first look at what a galaxy is and all the parts that come after 😄.
What is a galaxy? 💭
In simple words, a galaxy is a big group of stars ⭐ and other space stuff. It does spin around a centre of gravity, and they are huge with millions of stars in them. Galaxies form part of the universe, which according to scientists right now, has billions of galaxies! Some of which we still don’t know anything about at all.
Where are we?
Our galaxy is called the Milky way, a cluster of 3000 galaxies in the shape of a spiral. 🌀
What is our solar system like? ☀️
Firstly a solar system is any system of planets orbiting a host star. (our host star is the sun)
We have 8 planets (or 9, but that is still up for debate!). In order:
- Mercury ☿️
- Venus ♀️
- Earth 🌍
- Mars ♂️
- Jupiter ♃
- Saturn 🪐
- Uranus ♅
- Neptune ♆
- Pluto (technically a dwarf planet) ♇
Each have their own special characteristics and are visible from earth at different times of the year. 🔭
I personally always recommend going to a planetarium as an outing or creating your own fun space night at home 🌌. Use this as your experiment for learning about this topic, cutting out all the lights to watch shows about our planets. Investing in a telescope is not something every family can do but you could try making it all on your own.
Topic 4: Life Cycles.
In my opinion, everyone knows about the other 3 topics mentioned. However, sometimes we forget about Life cycles as a topic in science.
Life cycles are important as they are the basis of all life existing on earth, and I mean all. From plants to lizards, or cats to fish, every living being on our planet goes through a life cycle.
What’s the deal with plant life cycles? 🍃
You as a parent can go about teaching life cycles in two ways, I would suggest starting with plants, they might have a life cycle with more steps but experiments related to the plant life cycle are easy to do at home.
Start by taking some seeds from any vegetable or fruit you have at home (following the viral trend. Try an avocado seed and watch as it sprouts! 🌱 Then we can look at how it grows into a tree or just a small sprout.
Although the avocado tree will probably not reach maturity as quickly as a butternut or sweet potato. Going any further with the plant life cycle would require the plant to grow a flower, become pollinated and make the vegetable or fruit that will help continue the cycle.
How are animal life cycles different?
The second way to teach this is starting with animals, however it is important to show that there might be one basic life cycle, but depending on the type of animal, you might have a few changes along the way.
- Gestation – The development of an animal 🤰
- Early Growth – This is the growth before reaching maturity 👶
- Creating new life – This stage happens after maturity 👫
- The end of life – All animals will die at some point ⚰️
These stages can be very complicated 🐙 in some animals and simple 🐏 for others.
I believe that teaching children this cycle from early on is key to understanding concepts like evolution, classification, life and death, and medicine.
Experiments for teaching life cycles in animals can be complicated and take a long time, unless you use an animal that has a short life cycle. Look at an orchid mantis (a prettier version of a praying mantis), a butterfly or another insect that you feel comfortable with. Ant houses are available all over the internet and can last years, creating a fun project your child can be invested in and could create a love for biology they didn’t know about before!
This is just the beginning!
When we as teachers look at students who learn science best, we always find that learners who have found other ways of learning about science do the best!
There are so many more science topics that I could emphasise. However starting with these four topics will get you and your child into the right space for a fun and eventful science experience at school.
If your child is still struggling to really connect with science, have a look at some of our online tutors to help you with your child’s science journey today!
Inge is our GoStudent learning expert for all math and science topics! Born and raised in South Africa, she has found her passion for teaching very early in life. She has over 5 years experience in teaching math and science topics and has worked as an Au-Pair. Did you know that South Africa has the lowest success rate for students learning math and science? Inge is striving to change this and have a positive influence on school systems all over the world. With her new ideas and mehods on playful learning, she is revolutionising traditional teaching methods and makes the "hated" maths and science subjects fun again!