Monday, August 22, 2016

Science Appreciation for Kids

Endearing photos of grandchildren may now be instantly shared by grandparents hundreds of miles away. Last week we were apprised of the capture of “Cray-Cray,” a two inch long crayfish proudly named by our 4-year old granddaughter, Juliana. Their neighborhood pond and stream produced the healthy little crayfish. It resided in a plastic bowl for several days before we arrived to baby sit our three young grandchildren. Our granddaughter agreed that Cray-Cray would be happier if returned to his natural home. There he would have access to his natural food—water plants, worms, insects, plankton, and a variety of other foods, according to our internet search. The trip to the pond and back provided a wealth of wonderful object lessons from the world of nature.

On the way to the pond and stream we passed a small tree from which a noisy dog-day cicada was broadcasting its familiar late summer mating message. Grandpa posed the possibility of finding the singer in order to get a closer look while he sang his love song. He did not actually hope to find him because these insects tend to shield themselves in foliage or move carefully around the tree branches in order to remain out of sight. But thankfully, this particular cicada was oblivious to us. After tracking his musical rendition we found the colorful insect perched upon a small branch in surprisingly plain sight about eight feet up. Pointing him out at close range with a stick did not deter him from singing. He sang uninterrupted for several minutes. Grandparents shared an exciting first time experience with their grandkids.

A few hundred feet beyond we arrived at the neighborhood pond. A large dragonfly sailed close to our heads on the way. It was time to plan our strategy for gently returning Cray-Cray to his watery home. When Juliana picked him up she was pinched by her pet who had assumed a defensive posture. Grandpa was hard pressed to assure her that he had been pinched many times in the past by crayfish chelipeds (front legs bearing the claw) without permanent injury—so…not to worry! Soon we devised a strategy for letting Cray-Cray walk off one of the stream’s flat rocks on his own: Mission accomplished.

More adventures awaited us in the clear stream as we observed openings between the water plants. Juliana spotted a polliwog and little fish and unsuccessfully attempted to catch them. Grandpa posed the question, “What do polliwogs become?” He had to answer his own question: “They become frogs or toads.” Juliana wondered, “What do little fish become?” The answer: “Bigger fish.” While we were considering other questions suggested by the stream environment, we were careful not to overkill the children’s curiosity with too much detail. For example, perhaps Grandpa’s comment that some of the flat rocks in the stream were formerly mud or other sediment before they hardened into rock may have been an unnecessary detail.

Throughout the visit to the stream there were numerous opportunities to credit God as the Maker of all sorts of creatures we were observing—cicadas, dragonflies, crayfish, polliwogs, little fish, and the bigger fish the young boys were catching with their parents. Our 4-year old Juliana’s comments affirmed her belief that God made many different animals and plants and that they are all designed wonderfully. We noticed that each and every birch leaf beside the stream was virtually identical with every other birch leaf, but different from leaves of other types of trees. 2-year old Torren was a quieter, but interested observer during the pond visit.

The return trip home was mostly uphill. The children noted that navigating uphill on their balance bike or regular bike was a struggle. Grandpa does not miss opportunities to remind young children of gravity as both a facilitator and inhibitor: a facilitator if traveling downhill; an inhibitor if moving uphill. It is not too early to encourage children to think about the benefits and challenges of gravity. After we returned to the house, neighbors brought over several newly found milkweed caterpillars to share, soon to morph into a chrysalis and later an adult monarch butterfly. Metamorphosis is a glorious natural process in the world of living things. It is possible to pique young children’s interest in these processes and present them as superb ideas in the mind of our Creator.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

Many of our past posts have made reference to children’s belief in God as reinforced by their observation of the physical creation. The most recent post is linked here:

On the “SEARCH THIS BLOG” link on our blog site, entry of the word “CHILDREN” and clicking “SEARCH” will produce several dozen relevant and helpful posts with reference to CHILDREN.