Science for 6-year-olds?
April 12, 2016 2:33 PM   Subscribe

Can you recommend either a good homeschooling science curriculum for K-1st grade, and/or an experiments that work well for 6 year olds, and/or advice on devising an ongoing science course for kids that age?

My son's science program at his kindergarten leaves a lot to be desired, and I don't think it's going to get better in the upper grades. I and a couple of other parents would like to supplement with essentially our own after-school science and math curriculum, at home. (We would do this together, taking turns hosting.)

Google gives me an overwhelming number of options for purchasing books. It also gives me a gazillion hits for "science experiments for kindergartners." I'm also hampered by the fact that my own science and math education was underwhelming, and I have no way of evaluating what's good or not.

I have a vague idea that they should be learning, at this stage: Simple biology (growing plants, finding out what happens if plants don't get enough light and water, bird-watching); simple chemistry experiments; simple mechanics/physics like building things and seeing how much weight different designs can hold.

But I have no idea where to start. Any suggestions?
posted by pipti to Education (6 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
My kids and I have had very good experiences with Home Science Adventures and TOPS Science. Fun, hands-on activities, and experiments that work. We did the TOPS radishes project and it was very scientific and the kids loved it. We've done all six of the Home Science Adventures modules and really enjoyed them. At TOPS, we've done radishes, pendulums, primary lentil science, and perfect balance. The only module where we ever had an experiment fail was the buoyancy one.
posted by not that girl at 2:40 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Check out Girl Scout activities for the science badges. You can usually find a ton of great ideas that invested leaders have blogged over the years just by googling stuff like "brownie [thing] badge activities."

Here are the science-specific badges you can search for:

Brownie level (2nd-3rd):
Computer Expert
Home Scientist
Household Elf

Junior level (4th-5th):
Entertainment Technology
Animal Habitats
Product Designer

Cadette Level (6th-7th):
Digital Movie Maker
Eating for Beauty
Science of Happiness
Special Agent

A lot of these can be adapted up and down to suit the age level--but the Girl Scouts are very focused on STEM stuff these days and their badgework will give you a lot of good ideas to jump from if nothing else.
posted by phunniemee at 2:44 PM on April 12, 2016

I'd suggest letting your small group of kids' interests dictate the science topics, at least at first. Take them all to the closest natural science museum/children's museum (in the Bay Area, examples of these would be the Exploratorium, the Tech Museum, or the California Academy of Sciences), and see what exhibits get them excited or interested. If you don't have one of these nearby, stop by your local library and ask the librarian for 8 - 10 books about different scientific subjects that are good for kindergartners (e.g. the Magic School Bus series). Once you have a topic area, I think it'll be easy to google for learning resources and hands-on experiments that are suitable for younger kids. And one area of interest should lead easily enough to another area - for example, you can start with learning about cool looking rocks, and how they're created, then lead into a grow-your-own crystal experiment, and then from there, try growing living things, etc. etc.

Kids this age are great, because they're always asking questions about why the world works the way it does. Your job is just to catch those questions when they come, and then enable your kid to find out the answers to those questions through reading about science and doing their own experiments. I wouldn't worry about trying to have a super well-rounded curriculum at this age - it's better that they're engaged with the material and that they're learning more generally that "science" is a thing you do in order to find out the answers to questions about the world.
posted by Jaclyn at 3:04 PM on April 12, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks for answers so far! We are in NYC, and a major interest, at least for my son, is dinosaurs. We already spend a lot of time at the AMNH. Birds are another big interest. Marine biology is huge too. We don't have a car, though, so driving to a CT aquarium or even the museum of science in Flushing is kind of off the table. We do go to the Coney Island aquarium.
posted by pipti at 3:10 PM on April 12, 2016

You can get to the Museum of Science in Flushing on the 7 train! It's not a far walk from the station. The one in Jersey City is really good, too. Very expensive, but you can spend 8 hours there and not see everything. They have a floor of all local types of waterways and the fish in them. You can get there via the PATH to the Hudson-Bergen light rail.

I have a homeschooled 6 year old and for science we do just as Jaclyn above says: follow the interests. We grow the plants/flowers he is interested in seeing/smelling/eating; read books; attract birds; and try to DIY everything. There are a lot of science performances that we go to, and the most interesting experiments have us buying the materials and repeating them at home.

Lego has an educational set called We Do that introduces motors and robotics in build projects that get gradually more complicated.
posted by xo at 3:48 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite] is currently free and offers hands-on activities and videos.

Also Pinterest is a surprisingly good source for kitchen-chemistry type science and homeschool resources.
posted by mai at 7:01 PM on April 12, 2016

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