The best way to teach a subject is to teach a little over a long period of time, so introducing elementary-age children to topics like physics, chemistry, and biology can be very beneficial. If you start teaching these subjects at a basic level starting in kindergarten, 1st grade, or 2nd grade, your child will have a solid basic foundation by the time they finish elementary school. They will enter middle school better prepared to learn.
Children don't effectively learn and retain information when taught disconnected facts. If your child attends elementary school in the United States, this is most likely how they are taught. It's important to teach subjects like physics, chemistry, biology, and Earth science regularly and in a logical order. A children's encyclopedia can serve very effectively as an outline for either a homeschool or afterschool science curriculum.
How to Teach Physics, Chemistry and Biology
First, get a book like the Usborne First Encyclopedia of Science. This book introduces a lot of foundational concepts in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Earth science at a very basic level. Each topic has a two-page spread. You should spend about a week on each topic. After every 3rd section or every 3 weeks, do a review week and go over previously learned material.
For each topic in the Usborne book, supplement with books from the library. It's very easy to find basic books covering major topics in the sciences aimed at early elementary-age kids.
Let's use force in physics as an example of how to teach. Read the first page on forces in the Usborne book on Monday. Have your child demonstrate the concepts when possible. For example, you can have them demonstrate a pushing force and then a pulling force. The next day, read the next page on forces. On Wednesday, read your first library book. On Thursday, read the second book. On Friday, do a review of keywords. After every third topic, do a review week to reinforce what your child has learned.
Look for videos on YouTube to supplement these topics that are aimed at younger kids. The Magic School Bus series of videos and books cover many topics in science. It helps to have a subscription to the brainpopjr.com website because they have videos covering many foundational topics in Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. But it costs $85 a year for home use. If your child attends school or is homeschooled through some kind of public or private school program, find out if the school offers brainpopjr.com for free.
It's also helpful to have your child draw a picture of what was learned and put labels on it. For example, you could have them draw a picture of the various types of forces and put a label with each one.
When you have completed the physics section, move onto a new section in the book. But make sure to do occasional reviews of previously learned material.
Learning More Advanced Topics
It will take several months to complete the Usborne First Book of Science. Once your child has these basics in place they can move onto more advanced physics, chemistry, and biology books aimed at older elementary-age kids. You could try the Usborne Science Encyclopedia and go through the same steps you did with the First Science Encyclopedia. The Science Encyclopedia can again serve the purpose of being a homeschool or afterschool curriculum if well supplemented with other learning resources.
Usborne has books called What's Physics All About?, What's Chemistry All About? and What's Biology All About? that can also be a good next step.
The website eequalsmcq.com has a free Life Science book in PDF format that is aimed at elementary-age students. You can also buy physics, chemistry, and Earth science books. Each book is a one-year program.
Look for educational science chapter books as well. The Magic School Bus chapter books are one good option. The George series by Lucy and Stephen Hawking is another good option for physics and astronomy.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2012 LT Wright
LT Wright (author) from California on March 26, 2012:
pstraubie48, thanks for the comment. I was referring to the elementary school level. Schools vary a lot in the US. It is definitely true that some elementary schools teach concepts sequentially but large numbers don't at the elementary level. It's not uncommon for kids to maybe spend a week on volcanoes and then spend the next learning about how seeds grow. Rather than focusing for a couple of months on either Geology or Life Science.
Even the American Academy of Sciences criticized American science textbooks for often teaching concepts as disconnected facts. Of course, large numbers of elementary schools don't teach much science at all. According to Cognitive Scientist Daniel Willingham subjects like science and social studies account for only about 5-10% of what is taught in elementary schools. Language Arts often takes up 70% of the school day. That's not good for an economy that's so dependent on science and technology.
Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on March 24, 2012:
I agree that introducing and continuing to enable children to learn these throughout elementary school is important. I disagree that children ate not taught in a logical sequential way in American schools. That may be true in some schools but not all schools in general.