How Can I Help my Son or Daughter Improve His or Her Performance in Science?
Every year I am asked many questions during parent-teacher-student conferences, but "What can I do to help my son or daughter improve his or her performance in science?" clearly ranks #1. This year I thought I would put together some suggestions, based upon my personal observations and discussions with other teachers. Below is a list of some of those suggestions.
Expose your child to problem solving situations.
Many young students struggle with the problem solving and critical thinking aspects of science. Strong problem solving skills are crucial to students successfully exploring scientific principles. Students should be exposed to problem solving situations at home. As parents we can subtly encourage our children to be problem solvers. Many times we take away a child's opportunity to solve problems because we are better at it. Example: The furnace in you home breaks down. The house is freezing. You decide that you are going to have to make a repair. You think that it might be a simple fuse that has burned out. This is the perfect opportunity to ask your son or daughter to determine what he/she thinks may be wrong with the furnace and explain the reasons why. Problem solving does not always have to be something scientific in nature. Expecting your child to solve how he or she is going to participate in activities which have a time conflict may be a useful exercise.
Make sure that you speak English at home at least some of the time.
Recent research has shown that children are much more likely to develop an enriched English vocabulary, if they hear it from their parents. Recently I gave a vocabulary test on common household words and found that more than 50% of the honors students scored at unacceptable levels. Unfortunately many honors students graduating from Mission San Jose High School do not score nearly as well on the language portion of the SAT test as they do on the math portion.
Share information about your job with your son or daughter.
Many students only know what their parent's job titles are, but don't know what their parents really do at their jobs. Make sure your child understands what you do and what training was required for your job. Some of you have scientific jobs which may be particularly relevant to some of the science your son or daughter is learning about. You could also share how you solve problems related to your job.
Take, don't just send, your child on field trips and outings.
A large number of students have not been on "field trips or outings" with their parents. I must assume these parents have busy schedules, but is very important that parents take their children places. These field trips are an excellent opportunity for children to see science in action, not just read about it. Suggested field trips and outings in California include:
- The Exploratorium Science Museum in San Francisco
- The Technology Museum in San Jose
- The Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey
- The Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco
- A walk across the Golden Gate Bridge
- A boat trip to Angel Island State Park in the Bay
- A visit to Año Nuevo State Reserve where sea lions have their young
- Lava Tubes State Park in Northeastern California
- Yosemite National Park
- Muir Woods State Park in Marin County
- Point Reyes National Seashore
- Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley
- NASA Ames Research Center in Sunnyvale
- Egyptian Museum in San Jose
- The San Francisco Zoo
- San Francisco Bay Wildlife Refuge in Fremont
Help you child select good books to read.
Your son or daughter should be constantly reading a "recreational book." If he/she has difficulties with the selection be ready to step in. You might select books from the reading list which colleges suggest students should have read before finishing high school. This list is available is usually available through the high school English department or may be found on the web under English at http://www.geocities.com/hopkinshawks. Encourage your child to read mystery or books with a science orientation. This will help him/her develop the critical thinking skills. The books your child selects should expand both his/her vocabulary as well as his/her intellect. If the books your son or daughter is currently selecting does not do this, the reading habits may need to change. Make sure the reading includes a good balance of non-fiction and fiction books.
Provide your child with opportunities to cook and use tools.
Over the years I have noticed that many students have difficulty working with laboratory situations. Often students do not measure correctly or properly follow written laboratory directions. I am astonished at the number of students who have never held a screwdriver or a pair of pliers in their hands. Students need opportunities at home to work in the kitchen or the workshop. These opportunities will improve their ability to properly work on laboratory assignments and engineering projects.