A never ending curiosity about commonplace things is what gives birth to a scientist. The scientific spirit needs to be nurtured early, and today’s parents and teachers can play a big role in creating the Newtons, Einsteins, and Feynmans of tomorrow. As Albert Einstein so memorably said – you should never stop questioning. Thankfully, the parents of today don’t have to spend money on the Encyclopedia Britannica to quench the inquisitiveness of their kids. They can point them to the right places on the web.
Online encyclopedias for kids could be one. Kid-safe search engines are definitely another. But how about bookmarking these seven websites that teach the science of everyday stuff and simplify it enough for easy comprehension?
A team-up of Discovery Education and 3M. Students and teachers from kindergarten to the 12th Grade can use the site. Learning tools are separately arranged for students, teachers, and families. The lessons are fun but also try to stimulate serious exploration through interactive tools like Flash based virtual labs. Students are also introduced to innovators and inventors – for instance, 3M scientists who are into product development at the company. Try out Innovation Exploration to see how little innovations go into household products to make them better.
There is 3M’s influence on the site, but even then you can walk away with lots of knowledge around the sciences. Also, travel through time to learn about the innovations that have shaped all our lives.
One of the free resources at NBC Learn is called Science behind the News. NBC has partnered with the National Science Foundation in an educational initiative that seeks to explain the science behind everyday events. A collection of videos that introduce students to the fundamentals. Children can learn about a lot of topics – from bacteria to tornadoes.
Each quality video is around 5 minutes long. You can jump to the other free learning videos on NBC Learn that also explain the science behind everyday stuff.
The old faithful. How Stuff Works takes you into the practical aspects of how anything works. The well-known and well-reviewed website is another Discovery resource that’s on a mission to demystify the way the world works. From simple and objective explanations on “how stuff works” to consumer opinions and reviews, the encyclopedic website covers a range of topics across all age groups.
The information on the site is supplemented by brain games, puzzles, podcasts, and quizzes. If you are a video lover, HSW also has video shows like Stuff You Should Know; Stuff Mom Never Told You; Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know, and a few more.
Discover Science is a website belonging to the California Academy of Sciences, a museum and research institution in San Francisco. The Academy is housed in a 400,000 square foot area that has an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum and a 4-story rainforest all under one roof. It seeks to protect and understand the diversity of life around us. The educational and scientific organization is also trying to spread the same message through the website.
The Live Farallones Cam is a cool webcam that gives you live feed of marine life. A collection of videos takes you through the biodiversity around us. Stay informed with the top news and the scientific heroes behind the stories.
Exploratorium takes its name from the San Francisco museum and is its online face. It defines itself as a “learning laboratory”. The site supports that with short interactives and follow-along activities. From exploring space to exploring the mind, the multimedia rich website covers a lot of ground.
Each exploration is a mini-site in itself. Discover the diversity of microscopic organisms, the stellar wonders of Mars, and also take part in a cow’s eye dissection among other things.
We turn to life sciences and the amazing diversity that’s around us. Kids can catch nearly 15,000 endangered species without going anywhere near them. The vast digital library has nearly 100,000 high-quality videos and photographs from the animal and plant kingdom. The huge archive is neatly organized by species, location, topics, and educational age-groups.
Then, there’s the refined search tool. Learning activities and educational games are the side attraction, but at the end of the day it’s the information that wins out.
If a child starts to wonder at the world around him or her, then you know that your job just got easier as a parent or teacher. That’s the trigger for helping a child discover more. Wonderopolis is a wonderful resource that seeks to do just that. The site is designed to find “learning moments in everyday life” through questions that are posted daily.
The questions and their answers cover a range of topics – why is the sky blue; how are mountains made; what does a barometer measure; what makes a pyramid…and many more. The site is not only about child literacy; it is about family literacy as well.
You just have to read Yaara’s article on some of the amazing discoveries made by kids to understand the importance of lighting the fire of inquisitiveness in children. In the very least, even if they don’t turn into Nobel scientists, they would have started the journey of learning in a more fun way. And who knows where that knowledge will lead them. Which are the best websites you have come across that teach about the science of everyday things? Are you a proactive participant in the learning process along with your kids?
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