seal  Purdue News

June 16, 2003

Summer provides opportunities for family science education

Summer provides many ways for children to continue their science education outside of school, says Dan Shepardson, a professor of science education at Purdue University.

"Warm weather means children and their families spend a lot of time outdoors," he says. "That time gives them the chance to explore their environment, creating learning opportunities."

Shepardson suggests several activities parents can use to take advantage of teaching opportunities for children. They include:

• Enhance powers of observation by making detailed sketches and drawings of the environment. Take colored pencils or markers to add color.

• Take walks outdoors and along the way look, listen and smell the surroundings.

• Look for patterns, textures, symmetry and shapes in the environment. How does bark texture compare on different types of trees? How do leaf shapes compare?

• Keep a journal, recording observations, thoughts and ideas about the environment.

• Look for human impact on nature, including litter, erosion and tree damage. Talk about causes and consequences of these actions on the environment.

• In your own backyard, photograph or draw the change of trees or other plants during the course of the summer.

• Before starting a walk or a hike, think of several questions about the environment you will try to answer during the hike. Record your observations in a journal.

"A common theme in learning activities is documenting, Shepardson says. "Journal writing, drawing and photographing not only provide children a way to come back to what they have learned, it also helps to focus their learning. The summer can be such a rich time for science. It is important to take the time to explore the outdoors with your children."

Shepardson is available to discuss these and other activities parents and children can do together. He also can address the importance of science and environmental science for children.

CONTACT: Shepardson, (765) 494-5284,