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Dr. Stephanie Ryan, who is known to most as Dr. Stephanie, once came upon an interesting discovery with how young children can learn science. After her son was born, she watched him play with his toys and quickly noticed that he would sort them by color, shape, etc. As she realized that this is something that all kids do, it clicked for her that she could teach basic science concepts in this way, too. And she realized that these types of activities should be easily accessible for all parents and not just nerdy scientist parents, like herself.
As an assessment and curriculum developer, in addition to her PhD in Learning Sciences, Dr. Stephanie quickly went to work in developing more accessible education resources, and for kids at a younger age than you might expect! Specializing in science, she developed quick wins, like kitchen chemistry activities, that were easy for parents and fun for kids.
With @LetsLearnAboutScience nearing 10,000 followers on Instagram, Dr. Stephanie has cultivated a community that makes science and at-home learning fun for the whole family. Some of her most recent videos include the science behind making ice cream, using Oreos to learn the phases of the moon, and even kid-friendly ways to make a lava lamp.
“Instead of doing fun demos that are flashy — which, don’t get me wrong, they have a time, a place, and excitement we can use to help introduce people to a subject — we can tap into something they care about by letting them guide their own learning. This way, they are able to build their own knowledge to help them explain the world that they are experiencing,” Dr. Stephanie says.
Using accessible platforms such as Instagram makes these projects even easier for non-scientist and scientist parents to access the same materials. As we all live on our phones, parents can easily research new activities for their kids with instructions and materials needed for the experiments included in each post. Often, many of the ingredients can be found in your home already!
Dr. Stephanie truly believes that science shouldn’t be unapproachable. It should be something that everyone has access to. Her children’s book, Let’s Learn about Chemistry, takes children’s science education at home one step further.
“Parents are loving the book, because it doesn’t alienate them if they don’t know the content themselves,” Dr. Stephanie says. “It is interactive and can be read to kids of all ages, which is great for those with multiple children. The discussions can occur at different levels, and the babies can just chew on the board book and point to the bright colors.”
Dr. Stephanie’s Instagram account and children’s book both allow parents to learn how to be an at-home scientist. These materials allow parents to understand how their children learn and what topics interest them from a young age. Being in-tune with your child’s learning style and interest can not only help parents get them excited to learn at home, but also help them once they enter school.
The ultimate goal is for parents to feel comfortable teaching their children new things at home and having full access to curriculum that is parent/home friendly. By providing all the materials needed and using easily obtainable materials and basic lessons, Dr. Stephanie is making science experiments approachable for all. She also adds questions that the parents can ask and encourages parents to let their children work through an incorrect answer without correcting them.
As she builds her Instagram presence further, Dr. Stephanie hopes to include more science-based activities that will help spark new interests in parents and children. She hopes to encourage families to learn together and highlights that learning is a lifelong endeavor.
Not only are these activities critical now during a global pandemic, but they will continue to be critical in the future as our children enter the post-pandemic world and return back to schools. Keeping in touch with accessible lessons through mediums such as Dr. Stephanie’s Instagram will help children understand the world around them and see that science and math are truly all around them.
For more information about Dr. Stephanie and how she is making science education more accessible, please visit her Instagram, @LetsLearnAboutScience, or her website, http://www.LetsLearnAboutScience.com.