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How to Teach Children to Think Like Scientists

How do you teach children to think like scientists? If you want kids to learn how to really look at the world around them, a science journal is a great place to start. This post includes tips on how to teach scientific reasoning through journaling – and a free printable to get you started.

Use journaling to teach your students and children to think like scientists.

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How to Teach Children to Think Like Scientists

Mike and I are both trained scientists with Ph.D. degrees. Mike is a pure “hard” scientists, working entirely with algorithms and statistics. I am a social scientist. I mix statistics with details, such as in-person interviews and observations, that cannot always be accurately represented using numbers. Mike followed a very traditional career path, going from a graduate school to a research program and then becoming a university professor. I completed graduate school and became a stay at home mom who freelances from home as a photographer and writer. Does someone like me really need to think like a scientist? I think so. I think EVERYONE should know how to think like a scientist. Here’s why.

Why Is It Important to Think Like a Scientist?

I love the current emphasis on STEM and (even better) STEAM education in schools, because this is teaching all children to think like scientists. Here are five of the most important ways thinking like a scientist can help children:

  • Thinking like a scientist can teach us to step back from a situation to look at it more closely.
  • Thinking like a scientist helps us separate the things we expect to happen from what actually happens in situations.
  • Through scientific thinking, our brains evaluate numbers and other details to understand how they are being used. This is incredibly useful when reading articles about research! If you want to learn more, the book How to Lie With Statistics is an excellent place to start.
  • Thinking like a scientist helps us identify our own personal biases. We can then use that information to understand what we might be misunderstanding in a situation.
  • When we approach life as scientists, we see mistakes as opportunities for learning and growth, instead of reacting with shame and despair.

Thinking like a scientist is an important life skill, no matter what career you end up in as an adult!

Using Journaling to Teach Scientific Reasoning

A simple free science journaling printable

A simple journal inspires children to start learning how to think like scientists in a a natural way. I created a simple printable you can use to get started! Print several of these pages out and put them in a simple three-ring binder, or you can bind them together. I am using our binding machine to make science journal books for my kids to use.

How to Use this Science Journal Printable

I intentionally made this a very open-ended printable! Make sure your children understand just how broad an experiment can be. You can use these pages to record observations of traditional science experiments. Here are some books full of science experiments to get you started:

Science is everywhere! These two simple science experiments do not require any special materials:

  • Social science experiment: Go on a walk, and smile and say hi to everyone you meet. Before you leave, make a prediction about how people will react. How many people do you think will smile back? Say hi back? Record your findings, and compare them to your predictions.
  • Explore density: Which weighs more? 1/4 cup of salt or 1/4 cup of sugar? How about white sugar compared to brown sugar? Does 1/4 cup of water weigh the same as 1/4 cup of milk? How about juice? Make a prediction, and compare your prediction to your results.

Looking for more ideas? I wrote an entire post on STEM learning activities you can do at home without going out for special materials.

How will you be using this journal page? Can you share other ideas of ways that I can teach my kids to think like scientists? 

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MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

6 thoughts on “How to Teach Children to Think Like Scientists”

  1. I read the book title and thought of the Mark Twain quote, “There’s lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

    I was just thinking my daughter wants to be an author, but looking at things in a different way could help her improve her writing skills.

  2. Wonderful post! As a social scientist, I fully agree with you — kids can learn so much through observation, questioning and journaling. My youngest has been asking about statistics so definitely going to check out that book.

  3. Natalie PlanetSmartyPants

    I like your social experiment idea. I should challenge my daughter to do it both on the street and at school! I am very curious about the book you mentioned!

  4. I love how open-ended this is! The world does need more people to be thinking more critically and systematically.

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