NEA Parents' Resources

Raising Scientifically Literate Children

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education is important for your child’s learning.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education is important for your child’s learning, but also their future. Scientifically literate children who master those subjects develop the critical thinking skills necessary for academic and career success. This foundation helps them to become scientifically literate citizens, understanding the importance of science in their daily lives, evaluating public policy decisions, and making informed decisions about science reports in the media.

You can inspire your child to build a love for science, understanding the implications it has on important aspects of life. The resources in this guide cover everything from what scientific learning means for your child – at any grade level – to how to support their curiosity around science.

Fostering a Natural Curiosity around Science

As your child is introduced to science at an early age, they will start to learn basic principles and see how science appears in the things we see every day – like in weather and plants. You can encourage this by helping your child understand that science is all around them.

To further help your child think like a scientist, take a 10-minute walk around your neighborhood or a local park. Start a collection of natural items such as leaves and take them home to identify the trees they came from. Think about making a leaf rubbing (by placing white or notebook paper over the leaves and using a crayon to rub over the paper), or creating an observation journal to read as a bedtime story.

Experimenting to Promote Scientific Learning

As your child continues to learn more about science in middle school, they will become familiar with the structures and properties of scientific elements, and how they react to each other. When students begin to understand interactions in science, they will be ready to explore more complex scientific relationships.

Teachers still use traditional strategies, such as experimental demonstrations, to help students learn how science works. However, now we also see children using “hands-on” materials, conducting experiments themselves, with great success. Consider trying one at home to get your child interested in science outside the classroom. It can be as simple as filling up the kitchen sink with water and testing items to see what sinks and what floats. Ask your child to predict what will happen before doing the test and ask why she thought it happened after the test.

Using Science as a Building Block for Critical Thinking

Older children in high school will be expected to use the ideas and skills they learned in previous grades to further understand science and how they can apply it during high school, in college courses and throughout life. Try to encourage your child to take a science class every year he or she is in high school. Typically, colleges are looking for students who take two to four years of laboratory science.

Continuing to Explore Science Outside of Class

Your child can benefit from visiting new places to learn about science – even if it’s virtual. Take your child to a museum or a nature center, or consider a science or technology focused camp or program. Participate in your child’s learning by volunteering to help out during a science class or offering to share your scientifically related hobby or job, like gardening or engineering, with your child’s peers.

When your family enjoys science together, your child will learn to love science too – now, and in the future!


  • "365 Simple Science Experiments" Muriel Mandell, E. Richard Churchill, Louis Loeschnig, and Frances Zweifel
  • "The Five Biggest Ideas in Science" Charles M. Wynn and Arthur W. Wiggins
  • "Reader’s Digest Children’s Atlas of the Universe" Robert Burnham
  • "The Way Things Work" David McCauley
  • National Geographic for Kids
  • National Geographic
  • Ranger Rick
  • Your Big Backyard
  • Discover
  • Zoobooks

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