It’s that time of year when the kidlets are back to school, whether that be via a public, private or home school situation.
And that may have some parents looking for ideas for homeschool curricula or enrichment activities in the sciences, especially if they have children expressing interest in those areas or if they just want to foster basic science literacy among their broods.
To help out, Science in Portland has compiled a short list of resources that parents can explore, with a little help from members of Portland’s chapter of Women in Science, Portland children and nature advocate Michael Barton, and NASA Social alumna and queen of spacetweeps Shannon Moore. Here are a few ideas to check out:
• Basic chemistry kit and gear for girls: Portland’s Yellow Scope project features a kit, lab coat and goggles you can order on their website.
• Science-themed enrichment classes and activities:
1. Portland’s Oregon Museum of Science and Industry offers a wide range of classes, workshops, field trips and other educational activities for children in grades prekindergarten to 12. And they touch on aspects of science including astronomy, geology, biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, computers and robotics.
2. Mad Science in Portland/Vancouver offers science camps, field trips, afterschool programs and other activities aimed at encouraging kids in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
3. Check the Portland-based blog Stag Beetle Power for postings of nature- and science-related events happening in the area. The blog is run by a local homeschooler.
• Science classes for homeschoolers: The Oregon Homeschool Science Club at OMSI offers various sciences classes for homeschooled students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
• Science lectures for parents and possibly their teens: Via Productions presents Science on Tap lectures in Portland and Vancouver. Because beer is available for purchase at these events, before you head out check with Via Productions or the hosting theaters on whether children can be admitted to a particular event in the company of an adult. (And if not, these can still be a great way for parents to enrich their own scientific knowledge, which can benefit their children indirectly.)
• Exploring science through nature: Various organizations around the Portland metro area offer nature-based educational programs that also can support science learning. Check their websites for more information — Friends of Tryon Creek, Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District (Beaverton area), Audubon Society of Portland, Columbia Slough Watershed Council, Columbia Springs in Vancouver, Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve (Hillsboro) and Friends of Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge (Sherwood).
• Online videos: While sites like YouTube are bursting with science-related videos, you might take a moment to check out the animations on genetics and evolution on StatedClearly.com. All of the animated videos are under 10 minutes and created by Corvallis-based artist and science enthusiast Jon Perry, his production team and various science advisers. Along with the videos, the website has a section with articles on related science topics. While there’s no information on the site about age or grade levels these are suited to, they may be good for high school and beyond, and some middle-schoolers may enjoy them, too.
• Other online help:
1. Family Science in Portland offers “hands-on activities that use easy-to-find, inexpensive materials (to) let families explore the ways in which science and engineering plays a role in daily life.”
2. The National Science Teachers Association features a page on its website of books and resources for parents.
3. The University of California Museum of Paleontology has a great website devoted to the topic of evolution and helping everyone understand it.
4. Khan Academy has a seemingly endless array of educational videos on science- and math-related topics to supplement what kids are learning in classrooms or homeschool and to give them a chance to practice some of it.
• And then there is NASA: Check out the space agency’s education page; its Space Place website; and NASA TV for live feeds of rocket launches, interviews with astronauts aboard the International Space Station and various programming about the agency’s many space and science projects. Also, NASA astronaut and Silverton, Oregon, native Don Pettit has a series of videos featuring physics demonstrations conducted in space; you can find those on Physics Central. And you can find more space- and science-related videos on YouTube using the search “life in space.”
See any Portland-based resources that we missed? Click “leave a comment” at the top of this post.