Keeping Kids Curious

Last week I wrote this post about a conversation I overhead in the grocery store, where a knowledge-hungry girl was ignored by her preoccupied father. My oldest son Richard visited that weekend, and I told him the story and showed him the post I was writing. He was astonished.

Believe it or not, this really helped someone understand a concept I was explaining

Believe it or not, this really helped someone understand a concept I was explaining

“You NEVER did that to us. You always tried to answer our questions” he proclaimed.

I liked to think I tried. Part of me believes I would have made a decent science teacher or math teacher. I like to explain things, look for ways to illustrate a difficult concept in layman’s terms and make it as interesting to the listener as I find it. My sons knew that if they had a math or science question, bring me a pad of paper and a pencil or else I couldn’t help them. That’s translated to my work, where I have a huge whiteboard on one wall so I can talk. I also have put whiteboards in my staff’s offices. I also carry around a Moleskine (which I blogged about here), so that I’m never without something to take notes or sketch out a concept. The nice thing about using a whiteboard, even if you can’t afford the fancy ones that capture your drawings to a computer, is that you can take a picture of it and use it later as evidence of first conception for a patent application or for a memory refresher.

When the boys were fairly young, one of them asked me something about how the sun “goes down” at night. I drew a dot on an orange, and using a flashlight, I showed how a person on the Earth (the dot) goes in and out of the sunlight as we rotate on our axis.

All you need to teach Astronomy Lesson No. 1.  The Earth spins and revolves around the sun.

All you need to teach Astronomy Lesson No 1. The Earth spins and revolves around the sun.

Another thing I did was keep my collection of science fiction and fantasy books at their eye level. SF books are well-known to have pretty lurid or purely awful covers (here and here and HERE), which would catch the eyes of my budding young minds. Richard is a gifted artist, and started drawing from the time he could hold a crayon in his chubby little fingers. His interest in the colorful art tempted him to read the books. I firmly believe good science fiction is a great way to get children thinking about possibilities, science, and the Other.

Categories: Family, General Stuff!

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