A Guide To Instilling Scientific Thinking Skills In Children

Does your child like science? Some children dislike it because they think it is all about memorising complicated facts and scientific terms. While that is an inescapable part of learning science in school, that’s not all there is to science.

The main goal of science is to equip students with scientific thinking skills, which include the abilities of inquisitive thinking, experimentation, and data analysis. At its heart, science is about giving us the skills to discover more about the world.

And schools know this – more schools are shifting to hands-on, interdisciplinary learning to make learning science more engaging and relevant to real-world practices. As a part of the STEAM education framework, Science is also recognised as a key subject for meeting the demands of the modern job market. That is why learning science – and learning it properly – is so important.

Never mind if your child hasn’t started learning science formally as a subject in school; you can give them their first exposure to science at home as well. Below, we walk you through a guide on how to develop scientific thinking skills in children. Facts and content aside, these skills help children exercise their reasoning abilities and cultivate their passion for discovery.

1. Explore through observation

Before you can discover anything about the world, you need to explore and see what there is. The easiest way to do so is to get out of the house for a walk. Ask your child to use their five senses to describe their experience – what do they hear, see, smell, taste, and feel? Talk about any interesting things you see.

For a different perspective, you can suggest for them to crouch down, or view the same place from higher ground. Subsequently, you can also bring along a magnifying glass, a pair of binoculars, or a camera.

2. Pose questions

Asking questions aloud serves two purposes: Firstly, it sets an example to children of the kinds of questions they can ask and think about; Secondly, it encourages children to think alongside you about various problems and perspectives.

You might ask them questions like ‘The ball is stuck on the hoop – how can we get it down?’ or ‘What do you think will happen to the movement of the toy car if the slope is steeper?’ Ask away, and you might be surprised at how your child responds!

3. Make a prediction

From the questions you or your child poses, you can come up with predictions based on current knowledge. In science, a theory-based prediction is called a hypothesis. Typically, it comes in the form of ‘If… then…’. For example, your child might say ‘If the slope is steeper, then the car will move down faster.’

In essence, this line of thinking focuses on exploring cause and effect. You can promote this area of exploration by asking questions in the form of ‘What do you think will happen if…’

4. Test it out

In the true spirit of science, you need to back up your predictions with some data! To find out if your child’s hypothesis is valid, their next step is to devise an experiment to test it out. Ask your child ‘How can we find out if this is true?’

If your child is new to this, you can guide them at the start. In the case of the toy car, you can propose releasing the car from the top of a gentle slope, and another time from the top of a steeper incline, and observing how the car moves each time. The next time, let your child come up with the experiment themselves!

5. Record your findings

Scientists often use data like drawings and measurements to help them keep track of their findings. Your child should also make it a practice to record down the findings of their experiment. You can make it appropriate for their level – for example, instead of actually measuring the speed of the car, you can simply get them to describe in words – like ‘fast’, or ‘faster’.

After every experiment, you can make it an after-activity to get your child to pen down or draw out their observations and thoughts. This helps them assimilate what they have found and express their ideas in various ways.

With the guide above, picking up scientific thinking skills doesn’t have to be a strenuous process for kids. Once they have gained a good grasp of this process, science will become second nature to them. Learning science in school will also continue to give children the necessary practice they need to become comfortable with scientific thinking, and how to apply it to various concepts.

To spotlight the commendable efforts of one school, we can take the Canadian International School as an example. The international school in Singapore makes STEAM education an engaging learning experience for students through its inquiry-based and student-centred approach. The annual STEAM Fair and STEAM makers paces also provide students with ample opportunities to challenge their innovative juices on some hands-on projects.

The key to ensuring your child grows up with a love for science and learning is to make it enjoyable and relevant to them. And that’s what your kids will receive when they enrol in the CIS’s IB programme in Singapore.