After the excitement of the holiday season, our winter days seems to drag on forever. Weekends are the worst, my kids cooped up inside moaning “I’m b-o-r-e-d” and begging for more video games (as if they don’t get enough screen time already!). I find myself wracking my brain for fun indoor activities … until I remember: Science experiments!
Since my boys were toddlers, they’ve loved doing simple experiments—making oobleck and slime, or bringing in snowballs and watching them melt. We’ve continued to do these as they’ve gotten older, modifying to suit their ages.
Dr. Deborah Schulman—professor of biology at Lake Erie College and mom of 8-year-old science-obsessed twins—says that not only are these activities a great way to break the monotony, but they help kids develop important STEM-based skill sets.
“Doing those kinds of keen observations—not just walking through your environment, but observing phenomena, posing hypotheses—helps build essential skills for critical thinking,” says Dr. Schulman.
If all that fun science experimentation leaves your teenager hungry for more, the next step may be a science fair. Dr. Schulman, who runs the annual science fair at LEC, says that participating in science fairs offers teens the opportunity to take their scientific inquiries to the next level, focusing on skills like documentation, graphing, and data analysis and presenting it all to a team of judges.
The public speaking aspect might be the most important skill to hone, says Dr. Schulman, because “putting yourself out there” in front of strangers and learning to communicate what you’ve learned will become an asset once you begin applying to colleges and building your resume.
Take the college interview, which often requires you to share personal anecdotes about your past educational experiences. “If a student puts themselves in situations like competing in a science fair, they will organically develop those anecdotes,” says Schulman.
Who would have thought that growing crystals and engineering homemade snowball-launchers might pave the way for a leg up when it comes to college applications? Awesome!
For science activities to brighten your winter days, check out bit.ly/wintersciencefun2.