The sciences are traditionally viewed as a set of difficult subjects for students, but in reality they are widely applicable in daily life and increasingly important for you to understand. Understanding science helps you better understand the world around you, and science may be an important part of your education up through college. Many people even seek out careers in science. Learning scientific concepts through creative, hands-on classroom experiences and at-home experimentation and investigation may help you better enjoy and understand the subject.
Learning in the Classroom
Play science games. Talk to your teacher about science games you can play with your classmates to learn and help reinforce scientific concepts. You can make up your own games, or buy some online or direct from an educational store.
- Help reinforce basic concepts and vocabulary with crossword puzzles, which are easily downloaded online.
- Create a board game with science trivia, asking questions such as “What are the states of matter?” “What are the names of the noble gases?” or anything that pertains to what you are studying in class.
Make a group. Try forming a club or group that meets once or twice a week before school or during lunch for science-related activities. Use it as a form of group study.
- Use club time to play scientific games, watch documentaries, and try different experiments.
- Have competitions between club members or participate in events like the Science Olympiad as a team.
- Ask your science teacher if they would be willing to supervise your club.
Perform experiments. Simple experiments such as making a papier mache volcano or the Cartesian Diver are easily done at home in your spare time. More complicated experiments can be undertaken for class projects and science fairs.
- Work with a subject that is meaningful to you. If you’re interested in meteorology, for example, you could make a cloud in a bottle.
- Ask yourself “Why?” questions frequently. Look up information on the sort of results you want to see, and ask yourself, “Why did my experiment produce these results rather than the predicted ones?”
- Follow the scientific method. If you are doing your experiment for class or a science fair, it is important to follow the scientific method so that you can properly record and report your experiment. Remember to include background research, a hypothesis, and an analysis along with your methods.
Draw a picture. If you are a visual learner, turn your studies into art. Draw pictures and diagrams to help you follow your course material, and use these to supplement your notes.
- Be detailed and include labels. If, for example, you are drawing a plant cell, identify the chloroplast, nucleus, mitochondria, ER, vacuole, Golgi body, cell wall, etc. Make sure there is information to match the visual.
- Be colorful. Creativity has been shown to help students actively engage in the learning process.Get creative and colorful with your drawings, even if it doesn’t exactly match the models in the text books.
Learn with 3D models. Use interactive 3D models of topics like molecules, organs, or the solar system.
- Ask your teacher if any models are available to the class. If not, create your own. There are a number of tutorials and DIY instructions for scientific models online.
- Use your notes and drawings to help you take the models apart, identify their components, and put them back together.
- Test yourself by seeing if you can name and describe individual components of the model. Try throwing all the pieces into a bag, pulling one out at a time, and listing all the information you know about that piece.
Use mnemonic devices. Make memorizing facts easier with little memory tricks, a rhyme, or an acronym. These are meant to help you remember confusing concepts, difficult terms, and hard-to-remember facts.
- For example, HOMES is an acronym for the 5 great lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior).
- This mnemonic device might be of big help for you to remember the planets of the solar system: My Very Energetic Mother Jumps Straight Up North (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune).
- Be as creative and as funny as you want as long as the facts can be easily remembered.
Find real-world examples. Science becomes more meaningful when you understand how it impacts your daily life and the larger world around you.
- Tie basic experiments back into real-world examples. If, for example, you do a demonstration showing oil is lighter than water, pair it with a discussion of oil spills and what sort of impact floating oil could have on the environment.
- Engage yourself in your surroundings by identifying hazards in local environments. Use rising sea levels or extreme storms to help learn about earth science and climate change. If you are in an earthquake-prone area, use that to study plate tectonics.
- Integrate chemistry with environmental studies by testing local water and soil samples.
- Taste test more acidic and more alkaline foods to see how chemistry impacts what you eat.
Studying at Home
Start early. Some research suggests that children already start to form negative opinions about science by kindergarten. Start studying science concepts early in your everyday life to see how it is applicable and why it is important.
- Supplement TV time with science programming. Watch shows like Bill Nye the Science Guy, Sid the Science Kid, and Mythbusters to introduce you to basic science concepts in an entertaining way.
- Ask yourself questions. When you first start with a new scientific subject, getting the concepts right isn’t as important as simply encouraging critical thinking. Ask yourself questions like, “Why do you think giraffes have long necks?” on trips to the zoo, or “Why does water solidify when freezing?” when you make a new tray of ice.
- Remember, it is okay to be wrong. Instead of simply telling yourself that you are wrong, think through the process and guide yourself to new conclusions using new information.
Don’t rely on oversimplification. You might not get all the technical concepts of scientific processes, but don’t try to oversimplify too much. If you break things down to the point where fundamental information is missing or what you’re saying is simply inaccurate, you may suffer in the long run.
- Ask yourself, “Will this change the concept?” before you simplify something in your notes or on a paper. You may not need to understand nuclear fusion for a middle school astronomy report. Still, saying “The sun is a ball of fiery gases and metals”, is more accurate than stating “The sun is a ball of fire in the sky.”
Say you don’t know. You will have science questions that you cannot answer on your own. That is alright. Tell your teacher you don’t know, but that you want help finding the answer.
- Saying you don’t know reinforces the idea that scientific learning is not about memorizing facts, but rather about critical thinking and investigating.
- Read through your class materials and textbooks thoroughly to gather the information already available to you.
- If class materials don’t answer the question, look for online resources that can help explain. There may be videos, games, or even another teacher’s lesson plan that you could use.
- Ask to meet with your teacher outside of class to help explain the concept. Tell them “I’d like to learn this so that I can better understand the course content and the subject as a whole.”
Learn about scientists. Get inspiration from biographies about famous scientists. Learn about what these scientists’ lives were like and what they accomplished that brought good things to the world.
- Find grade-level appropriate biographies about famous scientists such as Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Watson and Crick, and others. You can find these in bookstores or online.
- Watch short videos to go along with what you’re reading. There are a number of online videos dedicated to celebrating great scientists. Watch them before or after you read so you can see why that person still matters today.
Exploring Science on Your Own
Visit museums. Museums are great places to see science in action. Go to a museum and spend the day exploring new concepts.
- Natural history museums are great places to find information about biology, ecology, and paleontology.
- Scientific museums such as museums of science, museums of industry, air and space museums, and others often have hands-on exhibits that allow you to participate in scientific processes in action.
- Planetariums allow you to explore the solar system, the stars, and universe beyond our earth.
- Aquariums introduce visitors to underwater ecology as well as environmental and marine conservation.
Go to camp. Many communities have camps meant to foster students’ interest in STEM subjects. Day camp, weekend camp, sleepaway camp, and before and after school options are all available.
3.Use technology. Technology is increasingly impacting the content and the ways students learn. Use new technologies to teach yourself scientific subjects in ways that make sense to you.
- There are different camps for different interests. There are camps dedicated to exploring engineering, ecology, physics, chemistry, and more. Explore a subject that interests you.
- Contact your local community centers and organizations to see if they offer free or low-cost day camps or afterschool programs focused on scientific inquiry.
- Check with local museums and scientific institutions to see if they offer summer and/or weekend programs.
- Look at national programs such as Space Camp (https://www.spacecamp.com/) or Mad Science (https://www.madscience.org/).
- Programs like Crash Course, Khan Academy, and others have full subject content including videos, lesson plans, and assignments online and through social media platforms to help learners from the elementary school level up through college.
- There are smartphone and tablet apps for almost any scientific subject you will study. Apps like Project Noah and Journey North allow you to participate in citizen science programs right from your phone. Others, such as NASA Visualization Explorer and goREACT, demonstrate concepts and allow for experiment simulations on the phone that would be too difficult in class.
Become a citizen scientist. Get involved with a program that aligns with what you are studying in school, and help contribute data to real scientific studies all over the world. Many of these are no-commitment required programs, so you only contribute when you feel you can.
- Help NASA identify interstellar dust particles with Stardust@home, or work with Galaxy Zoo to classify galaxies.
- Learn about synthetic biology by playing games that build machines out of our DNA.
- Contribute to biological research about dogs simply by playing with your pup and reporting your findings to the Animal Ownership Interaction Study.
- Search online databases such as SciStarter to search for citizen scientist projects relevant to your studies.