Why is bracing important for children?

A new research Although exposure to “everyday” science-related objects at home has been found to be an important way to develop science interests and skills in children, Children may not always know if they have access to these items.

Published Research in Science Education, surveyed children and their parents about the availability of tools such as thermometers, measuring cups, maps, measuring devices, and magnifying glasses at home. The researchers found that children’s access to or knowledge of these items at home was linked to their belief in science.

“Simple tools in our homes can play an important role in sparking interest in science careers and helping children develop lifelong new hobbies,” said the study’s co-author. Gail JonesAlumni Distinguished Professor of Science Education at North Carolina State University.

The Abstract spoke with Jones about his research Megan EnnesAssistant Curator of Museum Education, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Summary: How does having science tools at home help kids learn science and get interested in STEM fields? How did you measure it?

Gail Jones: We define science toys and tools as things that children have at home and can use to explore different dimensions of science. This can be a ruler, yardstick, measuring tape or scale. For research, we have chosen common, simple, and everyday items, but we have also included a few more sophisticated items, such as binoculars or microscopes. We explored how using these tools can help children feel like science is part of their future careers or contribute to a lifelong interest in science. We found that access to tools was significantly related to children’s confidence in science, self-efficacy, science identity, and self-perception of being able to do science.

And, Access to these tools is linked to children’s understanding that their families value science. When they think their families value science, they are more likely to pursue careers related to STEM fields.

PER: What is “Tinkering”? Why is it important?

Jones: Tinkering is basically spontaneous play. It is often disorganized and involves “eating”. It is important for adults to allow children time to try and experiment with just everyday objects. This could include building a tower out of paper pillows, building a bridge out of toothpicks, or learning how to use different types of tools and objects. There is evidence that children develop science and math knowledge, skills, and confidence when they sit still and play independently with some of these tools.

PER: What gaps do you see in the availability of these tools, and is there anything that educators or parents can do to close them?

Jones: We are very concerned that some of the children in the study reported that they were unable to use simple tools such as timers, measuring cups, and measuring tapes. More than half of the children reported that they could not use some of these tools at home. We need more research, but we hypothesize that if kids can’t experiment with these kinds of tools at home, if they’re asked to do something in science at school, like measuring liquids or using a scale, they won’t do it. I don’t know how to use this tool for training tasks. When they enter that class, they are already behind other children.

We believe there are some easy solutions. Part of the solution is for parents to let kids know if these tools can be used at home, encourage them to experiment with how the tools work, and let kids use the tools in their everyday lives. Parents can measure the length of a room with their children or find out how much a chicken weighs.

Another idea is to provide schools with science-focused backpacks with items to take home, such as a compass, magnifying glass, and tape measure. These can be sent home at the beginning of the year to encourage families to explore and use the materials together. If families create things and solve problems together, these activities build children’s confidence that science is important as a family. We know that not everyone has a telescope, but with a little effort, we believe that every child can have a magnifying glass, a timer or a calculator.

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