Skip to main content

Mendo Lake Family Life

Is Your Family Scientifically Literate?

By Sandi Schwartz

In today’s “fake news” culture, figuring out what’s true can take extra effort. Teaching kids scientific literacy can help them figure out fact from fiction—an especially important skill in the COVID-19 era.

What Is Scientific Literacy?
According to the National Academies’ publication National Science Education Standards, scientific literacy is “the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity.” National Science Education Standards says a scientifically literate person has the capacity to:

• “Ask, find, or determine answers to questions derived from curiosity about everyday experiences.”

• “Describe, explain, and predict natural phenomena.”

• “Read with understanding articles about science in the popular press and engage in social conversation about the validity of the conclusions.”

• “Identify scientific issues underlying national and local decisions and express positions that are scientifically and technologically informed.”

• “Evaluate the quality of scientific information on the basis of its source and the methods used to generate it.”

• “Pose and evaluate arguments based on evidence and apply conclusions from such arguments appropriately.”

How to Raise Scientifically Literate Children

Here are some ways that you can instill a sense of inquisitiveness and scientific literacy in your children.

Read From a very young age, read books about science to your children to encourage their curiosity and broaden their knowledge base. As they get older, encourage them to read about science topics that interest them, such as dinosaurs, outer space, climate, or computers. Check out the National Science Teaching Association’s ( book recommendations, subscribe to magazines like National Geographic Kids, and find websites geared toward science education for children.

Watch Seek out children’s television programming and videos that focus on science. When they were younger, my children loved watching PBS’ Sid the Science Kid, which is all about the scientific discovery process. (Watch it for free at Now that my son is older, he enjoys watching Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters, which uses experiments to test scenes from books or movies. I love this show because it really teaches the value of not believing everything we see. Instead it teaches viewers to test ideas using the scientific method. Its final season was in 2018, but you can stream it via Hulu, YouTube TV, and other video on-demand services.

Visit Take your children on virtual tours of awe-inspiring places, such as museums, planetariums, botanical gardens, aquariums, nature centers, and zoos. To begin to get ideas, read Interesting Engineering’s “11 Science and Tech Museums You Can Tour Virtually” for ideas ( and “10 Zoos Across the World Offering Virtual Tours” ( Also check out online virtual science classes and demos available via,, and And, for real, live field trips, visit places like local national parks and local beaches. (During COVID-19, stick to parks and beaches in your county.) During these activities, encourage your children to ask questions about what they observe and enjoy a back-and-forth discussion.

Experiment When it comes time for birthdays and holidays, be sure to add some science kits to your children’s wish lists. My children have always enjoyed playing with science experiment kits. They have built their own model volcano, hooked up electric circuits to make things spin or buzz, and learned about measuring and chemical reactions using everyday products. If kits aren’t appealing, set up your own experiments. They can be as simple as filling up the kitchen sink with water and figuring out what items sink or float. Be sure to ask your children to predict what will happen before doing the test and, after it, ask why they thought the particular result happened.

Attend Sign up your kids for extracurricular science and technology classes or a virtual or in-person summer camp. A few summers ago my son enjoyed a week at a technology-oriented camp and now he is taking coding classes online. These have been wonderful opportunities for him to learn in depth about science topics that especially interest him.

Create By incorporating simple, science-based activities into your children’s daily lives, you can inspire their interest in and love for science. Spend time together in the kitchen baking and explaining how measuring works and why baked goods rise in the oven. Plant a family garden and appreciate learning about nature; enjoy the food you grow. When your children need to take medicine, explain how important it is to follow the directions on the bottle and how chemicals affect us.

As you can see, there are endless opportunities to bring science to the forefront of your children’s lives. And when you learn together, you make the experience incredibly meaningful. Most of all, it’s fun! 

Sandi Schwartz is a freelance writer and mother of two. You can find her at Get her free course on raising happy, balanced kids at