Scientifically Speaking -Science Information and Resources
Does the thought of teaching science to your child give you an anxiety attack? Did your child just tell you he/she wants to be an astronaut or a biochemist and you don’t know where to start? The purpose of this column is to help you with your science questions and problems. I will be providing you information on how to find resources and mentors in your community, and how to locate classes and workshops open to children. I also will be giving you some tips for easy science projects.
Let’s start by looking into two great sources of scientific information as close as the government pages of the nearest phone book. The first is your local Cooperative Extension office. Cooperative Extension was started by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a quick way to get research information from the state universities to farmers. County Extension agents were housed in each county of the state and would literally drive from farm to farm helping farmers with their problems.
In our modern age, county agents supply a wealth of information about topics ranging from aquaculture to public speaking. Most offices have regular workshops on a variety of topics as well as an endless supply of fact sheets and other useful publications. Some counties have Master Gardener programs. These highly trained volunteers answer gardening and related questions. They tend to be extremely patient and helpful if you are looking for a mentor for a plant science or horticulture project.
Also housed in the county Cooperative Extension office are your local 4-H programs. 4-H projects include large and small animal care and husbandry, veterinary science, plant science, technology, woodworking and natural resources, to name a few. Even if your child doesn’t want to join, check out the 4-H publications for inexpensive science handbooks. For example, take a look at http://cals.arizona.edu/4-h/catalog/index.html. To call your local office, look under your County Name Cooperative Extension (for example, Maricopa County Cooperative Extension) in the government section of the phone book. Because the staff of each county varies with county needs, you might want to try nearby counties as well.
The second local agency that might have science classes is your city Parks and Recreation department. Our local departments offer courses ranging from archeology to soccer. For example, I teach a course called “Incredible Insects” for pre-school aged children at our local facility. Most classes are extremely reasonable or free. The staff might also be willing to create a class for a group of interested students. To reach your local office, look under your City Name Parks and Recreation (for example, Phoenix Parks and Rec.) in the government section of the phone book.
Copyright February 2000
Originally published in March/April 2000 issue of HELM (Home Education Learning Magazine).