How Do We Get Kids Hooked on Science? (Answer: Do Science)

Want science part of your kid's life? Do science with them


April 18, 2019 

Advice from scientists

What parent wouldn’t want their son or daughter to grow up to become a famous scientist? Most likely, every parent would say, “I do!” So it only makes sense to ask a famous scientist for advice on how a parent could make this “famous scientist thing” happen. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson believes parents need to let their children explore their surroundings.

“To get children interested in science, parents simply need to get out their way,” Tyson explains in an interview with Big Think. “Kids are born curious, period.”

However that means more than just watching science television shows and science videos on the Internet. Those videos may be interesting and informative, but the media focuses on how science will affect the audience: how a medical advance will lead to a longer life or how a new technology will increase safety.

More gee-whiz moments, please

To really get children interested in science, Jonathan Frederick, Director of the North Carolina Science Festival, says parents need to create gee-whiz moment and put the wonder back into science. Dictionary.com defines “gee-whiz” as arousing or characterized by surprise, wonder, or triumphant achievement.

“The Science Festival offers a lot of free activities that let children try hands-on science,” says Frederick. “We also offer a lot of simple activities kids can try at home with their parents, including creating a rainbow using a glass of water and light from the sun, planting a seed in a cup to study germination, or creating a science based treasure hunt.”

The idea, Frederick and Tyson both agree, is that children at play are testing theories. They imagine ways the world could work, predicting patterns of data and comparing them with what they actually see. Pretend play makes kids curious and gets them interested in science. And creating that simple gee-whiz moment is what gets the child hooked. To learn more about the North Carolina Science Festival, check out their website. 

—Frank Graff 

 Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on Sci NC, a broadcast and online science series.