Posted by: Deb | June 3, 2009

Why is the sky blue?

I vividly remember asking my father this when I was about 8.  I can’t remember why I asked, but I remember the answer.

When the light from the sun gets into the atmosphere it bounces off the air and dust and water.  Blue has a short wavelength so when it hits the dust it bounces around in all directions, so we can see it all over the sky.

Here’s a picture, to help illustrate what he meant.

electromagnetic-spectrum

And that is one of the reasons I studied science, then became a science teacher.  I had parents who took those questions seriously, then answered them to the best of their ability in a way I could understand.

As a science teacher I’ve worked with a lot of kids who have absolutely no science background in the formal sense, and a lot of kids who are functionally illiterate.  One of my strengths is to be able to explain things in a way they understand.  A lot of that ability is because I see kids as mini-scientists.  They want to know, they want to ask questions, and they can accept the explanations.  They may not be able to control all the variables and complete a statistical analysis, but they can hypothesise and test with the best of them.  All that is needed is to keep that joy and naturalness of discovery alive, but so often it is lost.  By the time they get to highschool, too many kids and their parents think that science is hard, boring, irrelevant or downright dangerous.  I always swore I would keep an eye on my own children and make sure I helped them see the sheer fun of science.

When I had my own children it was obvious it starts a lot earlier than school.  Babies and toddlers ask questions, maybe not in so many words, but their job is to explore and make sense of the world.  So here I am translating science concepts from insect life cycles, to blood circulation, gravity and chemical reactions into baby and toddler speak.  And we are having so much fun along the way.

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