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What's your favourite childhood science memory?

  1. Apr 18, 2009 #1
    Hi, I'm new here. I'm a homeschooling mum with five- and two-year-old boys. The five-year-old seems to be shaping up as a scientist. He loves doing experiments both made up and by direction and he loves discussing why things happen and explaining them to people. The other day he made his own centrifuge with the lid of a wok and some bits and pieces (it was then that I looked it up and realised that centripetal force is the modern way of looking at it apparently).

    I'm not a particularly scientific person (okay, it's obvious I'm not at all a scientific person) but I'm really eager to learn and pass a little knowledge at least onto my son (he has been getting a lot from the Net and books thus far). We've done a lot of the basic experiments like bicarb soda reactions and balloon stuff and we're always on the lookout for a new experiment.

    So...my question to all you scientists is what really inspired you as a young scientist? What spurred you on to discover things and further your science? What did you love most about your scientific learning?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 18, 2009 #2
    If you want to indoctrinate your kid to science, find him friends who have similar aspirations. It's hard to fail after a group is formed. Nature is full of wonders, you just have to open your mind for it.
  4. Apr 18, 2009 #3


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    My parents bought 'How and Why Wonderbooks'. I don't know if they are still available, but they were usually devoted to particular topics. One had simple scientific experiments one could perform and which demonstrated certain principles of physics.

    A friend of my fathers bought me a microscope, and I spent hours looking at things (insects, parts of plants, dirt, . . . .) that I found outdoors, and sometimes indoors. I made my own slides.

    My dad bought an electronics kit that allowed me to build a variety of electronics circuits, including a radio.

    We also had plenty of science books, e.g. books on astronomy.
  5. Apr 18, 2009 #4


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    One sad fact about modern technology is that even when you pick it apart, you won't be able to figure out how it works!

    Inquisitive kids of prior earlier times could quite easily see how/why a watch worked, or even how, say, a radio was built up.

    However, this doesn't mean that the basic reasons for why a thing worked previously suddenly have become invalid! (The laws of nature are eternal)

    A kid today could learn a lot about, say, mechanics and electricity by peeking inside instruments, as long as the specimens do not "suffer" from the extreme sophistication of modern day technology.

    Perhaps you might try to locate second-hand stores to find "old" technological pieces in working order, and discover together how these items work as they do?
  6. Apr 18, 2009 #5


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    If you take your children outdoors a lot, it might be a good idea to get a decent compact field guide to the birds in your region. You can find and ID a bird from its field-marks, then read about where it nests, and where it lives in the summer and in the winter. Many guides come with life-lists pre-printed you you can check off which birds you and your boys have seen. I much prefer guides that feature painted illustrations instead of photographs - they do a better job illustrating identifying features. I haven't seen the newest version of the Peterson Field Guide, but in the past, they were very strong in this regard.
  7. Apr 18, 2009 #6
    I was 6 when I got my first science kit. It was for rocks and minerals, complete with a little hammer, awls, and my first refracting microscope. I would dress in my Fathers over sized lab coat and collect samples from the neighbors decorative boulders {heheh sorry neighbors}.
    It really opened up my eyes to the investigation aspect of science, which I really enjoy to this day.
  8. Apr 18, 2009 #7
    So you were the mini scientist who stole my boulders.I forgive you.:biggrin:
  9. Apr 18, 2009 #8
    one of my favorite memories is of a teacher who made the time to show me why I was wrong.
    It involved the idea of a motor turning a generator that would supply power for the motor to turn the generator. My first perpetual motion experience.
    Since I couldn't see the flaw in the idea he took the time with me after school to build the device. Big electrical shop three phase motor and generator were used.
    I still remember the sound as the rotors spun faster and faster till it was obvious that the thing would self destruct. Positive feedback is fun, dangerous!, but fun.

    That day started me on my way to a technical career.
  10. Apr 18, 2009 #9
    My dad had a small workshop in the house with all kinds of tools, electronic parts unimaginable. So I got exposed to it very early, and begin tinkering with it. But when that wasn't enough I started takings things apart, even a brand new VCR that my dad bought when I was five. It was a thrill to figure out how it works and see what's inside.
  11. Apr 18, 2009 #10


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    That's wonderful that he is starting to 'test" things.

    My first big science love was my microscope. It's very easy to make slides of common things found in and near the house. Reading about things and seeing pictures was never as cool as actually seeing them in real life.

    My other favorite was a telescope. This is something that the whole family can enjoy together.

    My chemistry set was a lot of fun. Growing crystals, gathering tadpoles and watching them change into frogs. Ant farms, sea monkeys, attempts to incubate quail eggs in an incubator, ok, that didn't work. :frown: Even my venus fly trap.

    My rock collection got me interested in geology, an interest I still have today.

    These were all things that opened my mind to the wonders of nature and science.
  12. Apr 18, 2009 #11

    Ivan Seeking

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    I probably had the most fun playing with all of the chemicals and experimental adhesives being developed for NASA, that my dad brought home from work. I think he's still mad about me permanently gluing his best ladder shut.

    Next, anything with high voltage, and anything that exploded.

    Of course my parents didn't know about most of this. Good luck. :biggrin:

    Chemistry set
    Recording equipment
    Dads Camera
    Built a Van de Graaf generator
    Electronics. Back then, Radio Shack was a fun place!

    Gasoline engines for minibikes, go-carts, later motorcycles and cars. In order to understand how an engine works, you go through a good bit of physics. One also gets to see how the theory translates to a real system.

    But most of all, access to good information. I know that both Astronuc and I were reading our dad's college physics books by our early teens.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2009
  13. Apr 18, 2009 #12
    For me it was the various books that my parents bought. My top favorites were Funk & Wagnalls dictionaries and the Autobahn society field guides to North American fossils, birds, rocks and minerals, reptiles, and the night sky. There were also a few different naturalist field guides which I remember being very interesting. They were filled with many experiments and and different things you could do, like how to assemble a mouse skeleton from collected owl droppings, how to make a water purifier with a sheet of plastic and a glass jar, building a small pond to kickoff an ecosystem which you could monitor, ect.

    The biggest thing for me though, would be the fossil digs that my father took me on. Nothing beats digging for hours on end in the dirt and mud when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, you find something very rare or possibly something that no one has ever laid eyes on before.

    Though they may be a bit outdated for today's youth, I absolutely LOVED Carl Sagan's TV series Cosmos and Arthur C Clarke's Mysterious World. I can honestly say that it was Carl Sagan who inspired my love for astronomy and the overall appreciation for the dynamic world around us.
  14. Apr 18, 2009 #13


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    I'm not sure. I think it was a combination of things. All the nature shows on TV, playing in the backyard collecting bugs and spiders (my mom didn't complain too much about the caterpillars, but had fits that I played with spiders), and certainly my science classes in school. For someone who wound up in biology, it was the projects involving circuits that I loved in school...we had to build things. In 6th grade, I made a little battery-operated burglar alarm for a door...built a little model of a door, had to make an electromagnet, which sounded like the neatest thing, and it buzzed as two little pieces of metal would make contact and break contact. We were expected to be able to explain the workings of the circuits involved in our projects...not that I remember it all now.

    On the bio side, my parents had an old microscope...the really basic, cheap kind with a mirror for providing light. With a couple of slides and coverslips, I was busy exploring everything I could get onto a slide...onion skins, pond water, hair, whatever.

    The lessons about ecosystems were always fun as a kid too...grow some plants to raise aphids that we fed to crickets and then fed the crickets to the lizards.

    I always had great science teachers, so that certainly helped a lot.
  15. Apr 18, 2009 #14


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    For me it was chemistry and electronics.

    A friend of my father, who was a chemist, gave me an old schaum's outline of chemistry. We lived in an older two story house and I was given a basement room with a refrigerator, gas stove and a sink with water. Well needless to say, I was grounded many times for the smells the I generated by experiences all those reactions first-hand. :yuck:

    As for the electronics, I have a vivid memory when my mother discovered that I had cannibalized her tube type radio. It took me a while but I got it back together. :smile:
  16. Apr 18, 2009 #15


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    I think you meant the National Audubon Society. :smile:
  17. Apr 18, 2009 #16
    Whups. I guess I need to start paying closer attention to spell check.:tongue:
  18. Apr 18, 2009 #17


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    When I was 6 or 7, I asked Santa for a doll for Christmas. My parents were very surprised - I hadn't shown the slightest interest in dolls until then.

    Santa brought me the doll - of course, I'd been a good girl o:), haha. But my mom was totally mystified when she found me cutting the doll to shreds, basically eviscerating it.

    You see, it was the first doll on the market that actually peed...I only wanted one so I could figure out how it worked :rofl:.

    Needless to say, I lost interest in it, once I figured it out.
  19. Apr 18, 2009 #18
    I was eight when I begin freezing ants in the refrigerator then carefully deciding at what point I could defrost them slowly back to life, making sure they wouldn't drown.
  20. Apr 19, 2009 #19


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    Well I wasn't interested in chemistry untill college. I had paper and pencil chemistry earlier. I was inspired after entering the lab. Reaction? => Wow..:bugeye:

    edit: okay now I am reminded that I had never been disgusted with raw animal innards/body parts even when I was younger. In actuality, I was facinated to find out what they were and what function they served in the previously living animal. I went and told my friends about what I learned about these organs...http://img5.imageshack.us/img5/4596/shockedb.gif [Broken] and they weren't thrilled.
    response?=> ewwww!

    Does collecting insects count? I still collect butterflies when they come along.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  21. Apr 19, 2009 #20
    Wow, thanks everyone, what a variety of experiences! I'm really glad most of them come from outside the classroom! :biggrin:

    Thanks also for all the suggestions. We do have a microscope but I have no idea how to use it :blushing: and it was second-hand so no instructions. In any case, I think it might be a bit old for him yet.

    We'll just keep plodding along with experiments and science sets and I'll study a little about different concepts so I can bring them to him (had a look at Newton's Laws of Motion last night - geez, I might just be coming a scientist too :eek:)

    I love reading all your experiences. :smile:
  22. Apr 19, 2009 #21
    My most memorable is the red potato I grew in the 4th grade.
  23. Apr 20, 2009 #22
    I think potatoes grow better in soil.:biggrin:
    I have a whole bunch of good memories such as hearing music played from my finger nail when I put it in the groove of a record on a turn table.
  24. Apr 20, 2009 #23
    My high school physics teacher. Absolute science nut, physics is her life and it really inspired me and added to the class. It all started when i finally met someone as enthusiastic about figuring things out as I am :) A really good science teacher is worth alot.
  25. Apr 21, 2009 #24
    Very true. My HS physics teacher taught me so much I could have skipped my first two years of engineering and physics courses. I'm starting to recall another childhood memory involving a tesla coil and high voltage.....
  26. Apr 21, 2009 #25


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    In addition to a microscope, I'd recommend a good set of binoculars or a telecsope to look at the stars, and if possible some plants and maybe some galaxies and nebulae.

    http://www.spaceinfo.com.au/links.html [Broken]

    http://www.astronomy.org.au/ngn/engine.php [Broken]

    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
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