Looking at a Construction Site
Most adults think of science as an experiment or equation that has nothing to do with everyday life. But science is the process for figuring out how things work, explains Lisa Niver Rajna, a K-6 science teacher in Los Angeles. When you think of it that way, even a construction site can turn into a physics lesson.
Going on a Walk
Observation is the basis of science, so do what Rajna does when she takes her students out on a walk: ask your child to put on his imaginary detective hat and tell you everything he sees.
What kids can learn: You can work in a lesson about photosynthesis when you and your child have a conversation about leaves: Why are they green in the spring, and why do they change color in the fall and drop off the trees? See how many different insects you see or different bird songs you hear. City kids can also soak up a little physics by noticing the timing of the traffic lights—do they depend on the flow of traffic to change or are they pre-set?
Snapping a Pic
Your phone is always with you, so turn its camera into a teaching tool and your child can pick up some very cool scientific principles of light, says Rajna.
What kids can learn: Get your child to snap a photo series of his shadow (or do it for him); by identifying which side of the photo his shadow is on and how long it is, he can learn about the earth’s rotation and the sun’s position. Or teach optics with apps like CamWow (for iPhones) or Effects Booth (for Droids). Both apps, which let you pick a variety of real-time filters that make objects look like something in a funhouse mirror as they bulge, elongate, and split in two, are fun (and funny) ways to talk about how light travels, and how it can be distorted by hitting a convex or concave lens.