When I teach a science class, this is the questions I get asked most: “What science stuff does my child need to learn?” Parents are wondering exactly what bases they should cover for their kids to understand science before they hit the high school or college scene.

This is a difficult question to answer, partly because it depends on what your ultimate goals are.  If your child wants to just get his feet wet and see what all the fuss is about, then grab a couple of science kits and just play.  On the other hand, if your kid reads every science text on the planet and is still thirsty for more, there are a few basics you can cover to be sure she is both well-rounded and happy about learning.

There are 18 main principles in science, ten of which kids need to know and understand before they hit college. (As a college professor myself, I’ve seen senior students struggle with these basics that they should have mastered years ago.) And these principles are…

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• Higher pressure always pushes. (eCamp Flight Lab, released in summer)
• Like charges repel; opposites attract. (Unit 10, Lesson 1)
• Moving charges have magnetic and electric fields, and moving magnetic fields create electric fields. (Unit 11, Lesson 2)
• Light can be either a wave or a particle, but not both at the same time. (Unit 9, Lesson 1)
• There are four states of matter: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. (Unit 3 Lesson 2 and Unit 8). And actually, there’s a fifth state of matter (BEC, Bose-Einstein Condensate), but we’ve only ever found that one in a lab.
• Objects at rest stay at rest unless acted upon by an external force. (Unit 1 & Unit 2)
• For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. (Unit 1 & Unit 2)
• There are four fundamental forces of nature: strong, weak, gravitational, and electromagnetic. (Skip the weak force for now.) (Unit 1, Lesson 2 & Unit 7 Lesson 1 & Unit 10 Lesson 1)
• Heat flows from hot to cold (the principle of heat transfer from the 2nd law of thermodynamics). (Unit 13, Lesson 2)
• For gases, when volume decreases, the pressure increases (which is part of the Ideal Gas Law from Thermodynamics). (Unit 13, Lesson 2 & Unit 15)
• In a system, stuff in equals stuff out (For example: First Law of Thermodynamics: Energy in=Energy out; Conservation of Momentum: Momentum in=Momentum out …) (Unit 13, Lesson 2)

Once your kid hits college, she’ll learn about the other eight fundamental laws in science.  Why didn’t we cover those here?  Well, teaching six-year-olds about quantum mechanics, relativity, and the Heisenberg principle isn’t the best use of their time right now.  Our goal is to excite kids about learning and give them just enough so they can stay curious about their world and seek their own answers through this curiosity.

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Have you ever picked up a textbook, filled out a worksheet, or done a science activity and wondered…“What is my child really learning with this?” Parents wonder exactly what bases they should cover for their kids to understand science before they hit the high school or college scene.

Before you can teach your kid science, you’re going to need a basic science understanding yourself. We’ve prepared a science quiz to see where you are and how you’re doing. This is portion of the same quiz we give the kids during our science workshop, so you can test them again after the workshop is over to see how well they’ve pick up the stuff. So take a few minutes and give it your best shot. Good luck.

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1. What would happen if you belched in Antarctica? (a) the carbon dioxide in the burp would freeze into a solid (b) the carbon dioxide in the burp would sublimate (c) nothing special (d) the oxygen and carbon dioxide will form will liquefy into carbon trioxide (e) are you serious?

2. When the sun runs out of fuel, what do you think will eventually happen? (a) it will go supernova (b) it will turn into a black hole (c) it will turn into a hard, black diamond the size of the earth (d) it will snuff like a candle

3. When you cap a lit candle in a glass jar, what happens? (a) the flame eventually goes out because fire eats air and the flame runs out of oxygen which is required for combustion (b) nothing special (c) the flame gets brighter and lasts longer (d) an explosion takes place that shatters the jar

4. What does the word LASER stand for? (a) Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation (b) Lost Another Scientist Eating Raisins (c) Light And Sound Emitting Raygun (d) Light And Sensory Emitting Reflector (e) ‘LASER’ stands for something?

5. What is the difference between a light bulb and a laser beam? (a) the laser is a focused beam, while the bulb is a scattered beam (b) the laser is a scattered beam and the bulb is a focused beam (c) lasers emit photons and bulbs emit only electrons (d) this is why I dropped out of science (e) they’re both breakable and not allowed anywhere near my kids

6. Which one generates light by electrifying a gas? (a) incandescent bulb (b) neon sign (c) fluorescent bulb (d) car headlight

7. What happens when you scuff across the carpet in socks on a dry day? (a) you can zap your kids (b) you store up an electric charge in your body (c) you store up extra neutrons in your body (d) the same thing that happens to blankets in the dryer

8. What is an atom made up of? (a) photons, electrons, and positrons (b) neutrinos, positrons, and bosons (c) protons, neutrons, and electrons (d) gluons, muons, and gravitons (e) what on earth is a ‘boson’?

9. Which are the three primary colors of light? (a) red (b) blue (c) green (d) yellow (e) pink

10. If you inflate a balloon (don’t tie the end), which direction does the air in the balloon and the balloon itself travel? (a) both the same way (b) in opposite directions (c) nothing happens (d) inside-out

11. What happens if a tank of oxygen leaks and fills an entire room, and you walk in and strike a match? (a) nothing (b) BOOM!!! (c) the match will burn brighter (d) I don’t even want to know

12. When you drop an effervescent tablet into water, what happens? (a) bubbles foam up (b) it belches (c) carbon dioxide gas is released (d) it produces a chemical reaction that can propel a rocket skyward

13. If you blow up a balloon and stick it in the freezer, what happens? (a) it gets bigger (b) it gets smaller (c) nothing (d) it glows

14. Where is the area of higher pressure in a balloon? (a) on the inside (b) on the outside (c) both are the same (d) none of the above

15. When you wire up a circuit and it does not work, you should (a) check for good metal-to-metal connections between wires (b) see if the batteries are in the right way
(c) replace the entire thing (d) reverse the wires powering your electrical component

16. What does it mean when batteries get hot to the touch? (a) they are working well (b) they are about to explode (c) you have a short in your circuit (d) they are about to leak acid everywhere

17. What makes a cell phone vibrate? (a) little green men (b) magnets (c) a tiny, off-center eccentric drive system (d) a tiny gear drive system

18. Does pure water conduct electricity? (a) yes (b) no (c) not sure (d) I can’t believe you’re asking this… exactly what are you teaching my child?

19. Higher pressure does which? (a) pushes (b) pulls (c) decreases temperature (d) causes winds, storms, and airplanes to fly (e) meows

20. What is the phone number for poison control? (a) 1-800-POISON-ME (b) 1-800-222-1222 (c) 911 (d) 0 (e) Wait a second… exactly why do I need to know this?

21. What happens when you put a large chocolate bar in the microwave without a turntable? (a) it melts only in certain spots (b) it freezes (c) you can measure the speed of light (d) the chocolate bar emits radiation

22. Which of the following are examples of light? (a) radio (b) TV remote controls (c) ultrasounds (d) microwaves (e) sunburns

23. The electricity from an electrical outlet is the same kind as (a) lightening (b) the shock you get from scuffing along the carpet (c) the electrons that flows in a circuit (d) the electricity from a battery (e) the light show from wool socks fresh from the dryer

24. What happens when you combine a red beam of light with a green beam of light? (a) you see polka-dots (b) you get yellow light (c) you get cyan light (d) you get that muddy-looking color just like when you mix all the paints together (e) nothing – they stay the same

25. If an apple is the size of the earth, then the atoms inside the apple are the size of: (a) Manhattan (b) a grain of sand (c) the size of the original apple (d) Alaska (e) zooplankton

26. What are the four states of matter? (a) solid, liquid, gas, and plasma (b) earth, wind, fire, and water (c) oxygen, fuel, spark, and heat (d) ice, water, bubbles, and steam

27. Which of the following are seriously dangerous chemicals? (a) dihydrogen monoxide (b) sodium chloride (c) sodium tetraborate (d) sodium bicarbonate (e) all of these (f) none of these

# Extra Credit

## Basic Scientific Principles

There are 18 scientific principles, ten of which your child needs to understand before they hit college.  The following list of questions address the basic scientific principles your child needs to know, understand, and use before they register for university classes. We’ve tried to make these as fun as possible, so see how you both do… good luck!

1. Why do airplanes fly?
2. Why do you get shocked on dry days?
3. Why does a compass needle flutter near an electrical cord?
4. Why does my food come out of the microwave with hot and cold spots?
5. What two colors make yellow light?
6. Why does soda explode when you shake it?
7. What happens when you fart in space?
8. Why does the water come out of the hose faster if you put your thumb over the end?
9. Why does the ball roll down the hill faster if you start it higher up?
10. Why do rockets have fins instead of wings?
11. Why don’t the planets go flying off into space instead of orbiting the sun?
12. If you scream in outer space, can anyone hear you?
13. What happens to a cup of hot coffee on a cold morning? Why?
14. What happens when I stick an inflated balloon in a freezer?

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# …and What to Do About Them.

Did you have a teacher that really had an impact on you? Remember the excitement? Or the thrill you felt when you taught something to someone else and they really got it? First, let me thank you for your commitment to education – a value that is high enough for you that you are stretching for resources to help you reach your goals. In this article, I am going to share with you some of the common mistakes that educators often make.

If you’ve fallen prey to one or more of these, it simply means that no one told you about them yet. Once you know, you can then focus on solutions. Or, perhaps you’ll find that you are already on track, and this may reaffirm that you are headed in the right direction. Are you ready?

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