Observing my learners
I'm thoroughly convinced that one of the best things I can do for my kids is let them wonder around outdoors and do whatever they want. One sunny afternoon, my son began collecting creatures. A snail, an earthworm for him, and earth worm for his sister.
Learning through doing
Inspired by a recent library book, "Ladybugology" by Michael Elsohn Ross, we decided to make a home for the creatures we found. Initially, my four-year-old was eager fill the jar which would serve as their abode with leaves. I asked if we were finding the creatures in leaves. No? Where then? Answer: in the dirt. So what should we put in their home? The plastic jar was soon filled with dirt, and four earthworms, a slug and a mystery creatures found themselves inside.
The mystery creature had six legs. What kind of creature must it be? What did it look like? My son christened it an "earth-a-pillar", and indeed, I suspect it is some kind of larvae, though I don't know exactly what.
We kept our friends in doors and watched them dig tunnels through the dirt. The earth worms wondered around aimlessly. The slug made a run on the paper towel that capped the jar and the mystery creature tunneled all the way to the bottom. After twenty-four hours we took them home.
Learning through reading
The following library day I typed the words "earth worm" and "kids" into the search bar of the library catalog. I brought home a few books, and my son asks for them repeatedly. (If you are forced to buy books rather than use a library, you can get the same results by typing "earthworm" into Amazon.)
Why it matters.
It isn't about forcing experiences. Teaching science is about grabbing experiences in the moments when interest is already there. It isn't about reaching set conclusions, it's about asking the questions that help to organize the budding scientist's thinking. To teach science you don't tell they answers. You don't even have to know them. You just have to go along on the hunt.