Science isn’t just for old guys in white coats

MY nephew has recently decided that he wants to be a scientist when he grows up. And he wants me to “teach him how to be a scientist person”. So, I decided I better put together a simple guide to becoming a scientist – for all kids big and small.

Be curious

If you ask most scientists why they became scientists, the answer will often be because they were just curious about finding out how stuff works. If you just look around you and accept everything at face value, you might not make the greatest scientist. But if you have a sense of curiosity, and always want to know WHY, then you’re already on your way to being an awesome investigator.

Ask A LOT of questions

As a scientist, my job basically involves asking questions. Why does X happen? What is the relationship between X and Y? What happens if I do Z? The day I run out of questions is probably the day that I run out of a job. Kids do this automatically.

When you’re a parent of a small child, answering their billions of daily questions can be absolutely exhausting.

But if they grow up to be scientists, someone will pay them to ask all those questions. So encourage it!

Experiment

Science experiments are SO MUCH FUN. And the good thing is you don’t need a fancy laboratory or expensive gear. There are about a million and one websites that have home science experiments – whether it’s making slime, growing seeds, making volcanos, playing with magnets or looking at the insects in your backyard. Experiments are a pretty regular occurrence in our house, and my son is growing up with a great sense of confidence in asking questions, creating hypotheses and testing things out.

Get creative

You’ve probably heard a lot about STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths). But many of us like to talk about STEAM – adding the arts to the mix. Science isn’t all about taking measurements and crunching numbers. Scientists solve problems by being creative and looking at things in new ways, so develop those artistic skills alongside reading, writing and math.

Science isn’t just for old guys in white lab coats, science is for everyone.

And if you’re curious, ask questions, experiment and be creative, you’re already a scientist in my eyes.

Dr Mary McMillan is a lecturer at the School of Science and Technology, University of New England.