Where to get cool science facts for kids.
January 5, 2010 5:03 PM   Subscribe

My kids are now getting to the age where they are asking questions about scientific topics. It seems a lot has changed since my childhood 25 or so years ago: no more brontosaurus, Pluto isn't a planet, dinosaurs were warm blooded, and the Bernoulli effect doesn't explain airplane flight. Are there any other big changes to scientific knowledge of the type kids like that I should know about?

As a sidenote, outside of the amazingly wonderful Sid the Science Kid, are there any new, good resources or books on science for the 3-5 year old set?
posted by blahblahblah to Science & Nature (22 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
 
The magic school bus books (and TV show if you can find it) are great for that age. Some of the science might not be perfectly up to date, but none of it should be "wrong" enough to worry about.
posted by NoDef at 5:16 PM on January 5, 2010


outside of the amazingly wonderful Sid the Science Kid, are there any new, good resources or books on science for the 3-5 year old set?

Yes! We just saw them do a family show (Northhampton, MA) and it was awesome. My son is constantly singing the songs from the DVD, all of which have been peer reviewed for accuracy.
posted by bondcliff at 5:19 PM on January 5, 2010


I remember being shown the "taste map" theory of the tongue several times in school, but it turns out to be bunk.
posted by 0xFCAF at 5:22 PM on January 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


They Might Be Giants have a new CD/DVD set called "Here Comes Science" that parents will enjoy as much as their kids. Here's their video for "Meet the Elements".
posted by inturnaround at 5:40 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, the whole Bernoulli thing's been known for awhile. Wiki lists the Kutta-Joukowski theorem as being developed in "the early 20th century", and the oldest reference on that page is from 1957. Bernoulli has been used because it's one of those convenient "lies" that allows laypeople to understand the science better.

In fact, they still teach pilots-in-training the Bernoulli explanation (at least that was how I was taught seven-ish years ago). And, honestly, going from the Kutta Condition to Navier-Stokes might be just a wee bit much for a 5 year old.

But fear not! You can do a simple home experiment to show, empirically, the circulation effect that governs lift. You will require:
a) a spoon
b) a sink with running water

Run the tap and hold the spoon at the very end of the handle between your thumb and forefinger, so that the ladle part is pointed down and the convex side is facing the running water. Position the spoon a short distance outside of the stream, and then slowly bring it towards the water. Shortly after they meet, the spoon will get sucked into the water stream. You can then witness how the water follows the contour of the spoon and departs in a direction vaguely tangential to the curve of the spoon at its tip.

I think if I were 5 again, I would be amazed by this for at least 45 minutes, or until I got yelled at for leaving the sink running.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:46 PM on January 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, and to actually answer your question - The Way Things Work was updated recently and is now called The New Way Things Work. Covers stuff like microchips and laser printers. I bought it for my 7-year-old cousin for Christmas.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:48 PM on January 5, 2010


Human Body: I've recommended this site before, but KidsHealth.org is medically-reviewed information about bodily functions, illness and medical terms. It's too advanced for a 3-5 year-old, but would provide you with a quick, reliable refresher on these topics in kid-friendly terms.

Natural World: My 6-y.-o. son and I are working through Chuck Fergus's "Wildlife Notes," published by the Pennsylvania Game Commission and available online. Again, the writing is not for wee ones, but you can read it aloud and translate as you go. I'd suggest using the Cornell Ornithology site in conjunction with bird studies.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:49 PM on January 5, 2010


Bill Bryson's book A Short History of Nearly Everything has been reworked and released as A Really Short History of Nearly Everything. Duh, it's for kids. This is just about the best treatment of the history of science I've ever read. Talks about the people behind the important ideas and gives kids a great feel for how science really works.
posted by carterk at 5:59 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


About fifteen years ago astronomers discovered that the Milky Way galaxy is a barred spiral. When we were kids everyone thought it was a classic spiral, like the Andromeda galaxy or M51.

Also, it's been confirmed that there's a black hole at the center of the Milky Way.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:03 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


A little advanced for a fifth grader, maybe, but I absolutely loved Jearl Walker's The Flying Circus of Physics. The second edition, which has been out for a while is easier to understand than the first edition while not dumbing down its content.

Also, make some Oobleck. Hours of fun for less than a buck (assuming that you can find a box of corn starch for 89 cents like I did).
posted by Hactar at 6:05 PM on January 5, 2010


The Rookie Read-About Science books are great for that age group. As the mother of a very inquisitive 4 year old, I've used them often. There's enough information in them to give kids the answers they need, but they are simple enough to prevent them (and you) from becoming overwhelmed.
posted by jenny76 at 6:34 PM on January 5, 2010


Don't worry about knowing all the answers. The best thing you can do for your kids (besides encouraging this curiosity) is to teach them how to look things up when they don't know the answer. Do it together and talk about what you find out.
posted by chrisamiller at 6:45 PM on January 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


My five year old love The Secret Life of Machines, which are available free here.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:50 PM on January 5, 2010


1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. The Americas were heavily populated, there were civilizations in the Amazon, there may have been multiple waves of North American colonization, including some by coastal/boat rather than land bridge, North America was initially colonized around 25000-30000BC, not 12000BC, and there was some level of trade between South America and the Pacific Islanders. It's a good read, though geared for a higher age bracket than you are currently facing.
posted by fings at 8:07 PM on January 5, 2010


My oldest loved tje Let's Read and Find Out science titles at 3 or so. Spinning Spiders, Chirping Crickets, and Wiggling Worms at Work were particular favorites. I appreciated that the illustrations were usually artistic but accurate rather than cartoony, and that the science was presented really respectfully--worm reproduction is covered, for instance. The series is uneven, IME, so I recommend finding them at the library if you can and then, if you want, buying the ones you like best.
posted by not that girl at 8:18 PM on January 5, 2010


Dark Energy is one of the latest discoveries in the astrophysics world. Previously we were taught that the universe was expanding, but that this expansion was slowing down, possibly to the point that the universe would begin to contract again. Now we know that the universe is actually expanding at an accelerating rate.
posted by hiteleven at 8:22 PM on January 5, 2010


Changed since I was a kid: Lactic Acid and Exercise
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:28 PM on January 5, 2010


(Most) ulcers are caused by bacteria, not stress or spicy food.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:46 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


You and your kids might enjoy recreating some dramatic demonstrations in physics by Professor Julius Sumner Miller.
posted by neuron at 9:13 PM on January 5, 2010


I read The Canon: A whirligig tour of the beautiful basics of science by Natalie Angier to help me answer my son's questions. She talks about how to introduce science in your home and I really enjoyed it.
posted by bwonder2 at 2:33 AM on January 6, 2010


Can't believe nobody's mentioned Bill Nye the Science Guy, which my kids loved. And I second Magic School Bus.

But maybe there's an opportunity not so much to teach science as to teach learning. It would do a kid good to hear a parent say, "I don't know. Let's look it up." and then sit down with the parent and do some research.
posted by cross_impact at 8:00 AM on January 6, 2010


The whole bit about babies and the stork... totally disproven. I'm still in shock.

Also, I'll 2nd chrisamiller's reply as he is 100% right. It's more important to teach your kids that it's fun to figure stuff out. Knowledge is fun! A great answer an adult once gave me when I was a kid who asked a question he didn't have an answer to: "I don't know... let's go find out," and then off to the library we went. It was awesome.
posted by 2oh1 at 12:14 PM on January 6, 2010


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