Renowned physicist and popular science writer Carl Sagan argues that all young children are budding scientists. “Children ask why the sun is yellow, or what a dream is, or how deep you can dig a hole, or when is the world’s birthday, or why we have toes.” Children explore scientific concepts and ask pertinent questions about the world around them before ever entering their first classroom. Parents have a wonderful opportunity to strengthen this sense of curiosity about the universe. Summer provides a great time and space to cultivate literacy and reduce potential reading loss.
Early exposure to math and science concepts motivates children to understand complex formulas, to explore the workings of the universe, and to pursue knowledge of the natural world. And “early” is never too soon. Parents have the power to influence their children’s educational success starting from ages 0-3. Research reveals that this is the most important age range when it comes to building important connections in the brain and developing critical thinking skills.
A child’s interest in math and science aids this development, increasing the potential for future success. By encouraging children to succeed in school, we encourage them to progress into adulthood with rewarding careers and healthy lives.
Bozeman nonprofit Hopa Mountain works throughout rural and tribal communities across the state. Hopa Mountain’s StoryMakers program teams with doctors, nurses, and other citizen leaders in communities throughout Montana to distribute children’s books, tips on language and literacy development, and science learning information. StoryMakers partners encourage parents to create rich learning environments in the home.
Jennifer Stepanek of the Mathematics and Science Education Center stresses the importance of family participation in the learning process: “When parents participate, they show their children at school activities are interesting and important. Students have an opportunity to observe and model their parents’ positive attitudes and behaviors. With attention and praise, parents validate and encourage their children’s efforts.”
Every family can introduce their children to a healthy and happy future. Exploring math and science as a family doesn’t have to feel hard or complicated—simple tips make teaching your children fun, straight-forward, and relaxed.
For instance, you can talk with your children using math and science words—like “more than,” or “less than”—playing number games, reading books, and telling stories full of patterns, numbers, weather, and wildlife.
Here are some tips to help parents support math and science literacy at home this summer:
• As the weather warms, you might try taking your children on a hike to explore the natural miracles the season has to offer.
o Observe the budding flowers and the birth of new, young wildlife.
o What do your children notice about the changes taking place? Keep a journal of what you see together.
o A fun way to introduce scientific concepts to your children is to talk with them about the plants and animals, the cycle of seasons, and the changing temperatures.
• Planting a garden together can be a wonderful way to explore the world around you.
o Count and Identify seeds as you place them in soil. Talk about what a seed needs to grow and thrive.
o Will this plant produce food for us? Discuss what else is growing in your neighborhood. Can you find any of these fruits and vegetables at the local farmer’s market or the grocery store?
o Ask and answer silly questions about the process as you go, allowing yourself and your children to have fun as you learn new concepts together. They will love to help you outside and in the kitchen as they discover how exciting and hands-on math and science can be.
Spending time together doing such positive activities–talking, sharing adventures, and getting fresh air and exercise–helps your child build a strong, healthy body and mind.
Parents want the best for their babies and children. Hopa Mountain executive director Bonnie Sachatello-Sawyer reminds families that “with the right information and resources, every parent can provide their children with strong support as they learn and grow.” According to education professors Richard Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen, children who read just six books over summer vacation “maintain the level of reading skills they achieved during the preceding school year.” If children read more than this, they will make even more impressive gains. (“Bridging the Summer Reading Gap,” Scholastic Instructor 2003, May/June).
In addition to the StoryMakers program, Hopa Mountain also disseminates positive, useful resources and information about early learning through its Together Campaign. A comprehensive web site, complete with tips, PSAs, videos, and links to additional resources offers parents the opportunity to lead their children into successful and stable futures. Hopa Mountain’s many partners throughout the region work to ensure that children in Montana grow into happy, healthy, and successful citizens. Parents want the best for their babies and children. With the right information and resources, Hopa Mountain believes that every parent can provide their children with strong support for happiness and wellbeing. To learn more, please visit hopamountain.org/together/ for friendly tips and information about what you can do to build a healthy and happy future with your child together everyday.
Hopa Mountain invests in citizen leaders who are working to improve education, ecological health, and economic development in their home towns. Through its seven core initiatives, Hopa Mountain helps citizen leaders further develop their skills to deliver strength-based programs, services, and organizational efforts that meet needs expressed in their individual communities. Hopa Mountain matches resources of all kinds to rural and tribal citizen leaders to help them achieve their goals. To learn more about Hopa Mountain and its Story Makers program, please visit www.hopamountain.org or call 406-586-2455.