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An Illinois River Almanac

Jason Haupt's Energy and Environment Blog

Kids and Science

Ask a child what a scientist is and you will likely get a description of what most people would call a nerd.  White lab coat, thick glasses, tall, thin, and a squeaky, nasal voice.  In short, someone who looks like Steve Urkel or Robert Carradine’s character from Revenge of the Nerds.  It is not something that most children want to become.

In general, children today do not have positive scientific role models that make science “cool” and fun.  There are no TV programs like Beekman’s World or Bill Nye the Science Guy to get children excited about science and make science cool.  So how do you get children excited about science and get them to be involved in science?

Science education is on the decline and science literacy is no better.  An article published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment suggests that there is a significant gap in the scientific literacy of most Americans. This is a situation that is not going to get any better with new education standards.  It is harder and harder for educators to include science in the classroom.  So afterschool programs and programs that integrate science into other aspects of education are how many children are learning about science.

In science, all it takes is a small amount of a catalyst to create a big reaction and the same is true for getting children involved with and excited about science.  Something as simple as getting children out into nature and showing them something that they would not have ordinarily seen will get them excited about nature.  Using nature as a bridge to the rest of science can be all it takes to spark an interest in other areas of science.

So get out there and get involved with a youth program to spark their interest in science. University of Illinois Extension offers a number of opportunities for youth to get involved in the sciences.  Here are just a few that are coming up this summer.

For the Kids

For adults to expand opportunities to spark interest in the sciences are the following programs:

Adult Training

  • An Artifact Speaks Workshop - July 15 or July 16, 2015.  For more information and to sign up for one of the workshops, go to
  • Master Naturalist Training for Teachers - June 15-26, 2015.  For more information and to sign up, go to


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