Geek Dad Report: Raising Scientists, Hopefully. Probably Not, But a Geek Dad Can Dream.
I have one major overarching goal in my life, that is to raise two kids that are open about the world around them and to have a curiosity to explore it at a deeper level. So, to achieve this, we got our oldest (turned 6) something that he had been desiring for a while now for his birthday, a Microscope. A desire so strong that one day at a store, he carried the box around for half an hour just looking at it and hoping we’d let him drop it into the cart. We didn’t. But, conveniently “forgot to get a picture frame” when we got in the car and my wife ran in and bought it. He never knew. Also, something that I’ve learned is that my daughter will have a slight interest in whatever thing her big brother is doing to a point. So, if I can capture her attention and try feebly to hold it before she wants to turn the microscope pink and adorn it in princess jewels; I have to take my shot.
The microscope isn’t anything fancy by all means, you get what you paid for. It’s a Smithsonian Institute one with a light that requires two AA Batteries. Nothing like the microscopes that you used in the public school system. The light isn’t that powerful but you get the basic components. Basically if you can find something thin enough and not that deeply dark you can see some cool stuff. If not, you get a lot of the lenses poking right into what you’re trying to look at.
Here are the basics of what I learned during our first day of playing with the microscope:
Going Outside/Exploring = Super Awesome Fun Time! Seriously, we spent probably an hour walking around the neighborhood, scouring the side walk, bushes, trees, spider webs along fences, a big field. All I had to do was at first say, “Alright, time to go on a Explorer’s Expedition and collect some samples!” We collected a lot of leaves, twigs, Plant stems, dried up bugs, plant seeds, flowers and anything of interest that could fit in the vials that came with the kit and a plastic sandwich bag. Even though we never left the neighborhood and have been riding bikes and running the sidewalks for over a year I felt we learned more about our immediate environment in that hour than ever before. Also, I was very, very candid in acknowledging that I didn’t know the proper names for everything, but remember this, “Google is your friend” plus, it teaches your kids that you need to do research if you don’t know what you’re dealing with. Also, I’ll add this. When your 6 and 3 year old keep telling you how awesome science expeditions are, it gives hope for them as highly contributing on the advancement of human beings on this planet within the fast floating realm that is the universe outside our atmosphere from which we draw breath.
Putting Slides together is a pain in the ass. Maybe I should have paid more attention in high school science classes. Making slides seemed like a easy process back in the day. Maybe it was the fact I was just standing behind my 6 year old poorly coaching him on what to do. Once you get it figured out after a slide or two, it’s easy peasy. Just remember to have patience.
Look! I see…something, maybe? Is this broken? I think it’s broken. Remember how I said you get what you paid for? Yup. Exactly. When everything aligns just right, you get to see some really cool stuff. Just don’t expect to have everything work out when you don’t have those fancy ink to make things more visible and a light that barely makes it able to see through anything remotely dark in color. Also, you see a lot of what is in your tap water, while scary/cool, it’s not what you wanted to see.
Still had fun? Hell yes. Seriously, this was a proud moment for me to instill some scientific passion in my son, who wants to be a Paleontologist when he grows up. My 3 year old daughter still has high and lofty aspirations to be a Mommy/Princess. She’s going to need more work. I’ll say that even though we did this a couple of weeks ago, if we encounter a plant/bug that we don’t already have a specimen of, my son will collect it for observation. And that is really cool to this Geek Dad.
If you have any tips or comments on turning kids into SCIENCE! Nerds, sound off in the comments below!