by Vanilla Macias-Rodriguez, Science Teacher, The Beekman School
Many science textbooks define a scientist as someone who asks questions about the natural world and seeks to answer those questions through research, experimentation and collaboration. If this is true, we all start out as scientists.
As babies, we take in the world around us through our senses. As our vision and coordination begins to improve, we reach for objects and, much to the horror of our onlooking overprotective parents, we pop them in our mouths in order to learn more about them. We start to crawl and eventually walk to observe a whole new part of our world. Once we start talking, we question everything.
How many times have you been standing behind a mom and her chatty 2-year-old and eavesdropped on this exchange:
Child: Mom, mom, mom, why is the sky blue?
Mom: Because it is.
Child: But why?
Mom: Because white light from the sun is scattered by gas particles in the atmosphere and blue light has the shortest wavelength so it is scattered the most. It’s called Rayleigh scattering.
Child: Mom, why is grass green?
At this age, we’re desperate to learn more about this world we live in, how it works and why it works. The age-old response of “because I’m the mom and I know everything,” just doesn’t cut it for us at this age. Why do we lose that thirst for not only new information, but for someone to explain why?