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Here’s the thing: I’m practically a caveman when it comes to science.
By nature, I believe, my mind is more creative than scientific—after all, my father is an artist and my mother is a musician. But this gap only grew wider as my years of schooling went by. The clearest example of this, probably, is the “F” I got on my insect collection in 7th grade Biology.
So now, as a middle-aged father, and the main source of exposure to the minority language in my children’s lives, I’m faced with this challenge:
How do I nurture their language ability about the world at large, in scientific terms, when I myself can barely tell the difference between a pineapple and a porcupine? (Pineapples taste better.)
Too often tongue-tied
Lately, I’ve been making a more conscious effort to get out in nature with my kids, playing at the seaside and plodding up a mountain. This is a start, and the experiences have been fun, but I’m also painfully aware of the fact that I’m too often tongue-tied when it comes to their questions about the natural world. And this isn’t only due to the empty part of my brain where scientific knowledge should reside; the truth is, I don’t even have the words to name the things we come across, like common rocks and plants.
Now I accept that I’ll never be a science teacher, but I can—and should—do more to improve this sorry state of affairs. I can find a few books and websites with helpful information and I can learn at least some of the things that I merrily ignored as a student. Not only will these efforts impact their ability in English (our minority language), the boost in background knowledge will also have a positive effect on their academic performance in Japanese (our majority language).
Moreover, maybe I can even help them gain a greater interest in science and a closer connection to nature. (Lulu, unfortunately, is already deathly afraid of pigeons and other winged creatures, the result of a harrowing “poop-bomb” incident a few years back.)
Meanwhile, as I study these books and websites (making notes on my hand in ballpoint pen), and lead further expeditions into the wild, I plan to pursue another idea, too, courtesy of a friend. (Thanks, Roger!)
The other day he and his family had dinner at our house and he mentioned that he had gotten a microscope and that his 6-year-old daughter was now eagerly gazing at the invisible world around them: scaly skin, a bug’s tiny leg, the weave in a tissue.
And I thought: A microscope! (The idea had never even crossed my mind—blame it on my “science blindness.”) A microscope could squarely place science in our daily lives! At the same time it’s magnifying the hidden world of our home, it would magnify science itself in the minds of my kids!
Bring on the bug’s leg!
So I’ve added a microscope to our Christmas list. And if this goes well—I’ll certainly keep you posted—maybe I’ll add a telescope to the mix. It seems to me that the combination of a microscope and a telescope could open a child’s mind wide, in both directions, to the grand world of science, the great mysteries of life.
Maybe the mind of a middle-aged caveman, too.