Natural science is such a broad subject; covering everything from understanding how to read a map and predicting weather patterns to learning more about a country’s topography, that it can sometimes be overwhelming for your child to study. Here are ways to make the subject more interesting, at home and in the classroom.
Tips for parents
Little explorers. Take trips to different places in your home town, province or country. Travel to different countries when you can. What better way to learn about the world than to visit as much of it as possible? There are also books, atlases and documentaries that can teach children about different places. Or get your children to find unusual places on Google Maps and research them on the internet. Download applications that allow you to go inside a volcano, or fly through caverns and rock formations, on your computer tablet.
Map puzzles. If you’ve got some old maps, stick them onto stiff cardboard or plastic and cut them into puzzles.
Hidden treasure. Draw treasure maps using points around the house as markers on the map. Hide a treasure and let the search begin. This will help children to learn the basics of reading a map.
Destination unknown. Hop into the car and go in search of a new destination. Give your children the map or the GPS and tell them to navigate. It doesn’t really matter where you end up or how long it takes to get somewhere. The idea is simply to head off and discover the world, and maybe learn about following directions at the same time.
Nesting tins. This concept is similar to that of Russian Dolls, with each tin fitting into the next one. The idea is to teach perspective, so the smallest tin becomes your home town; for example, Joburg. The next tin is Gauteng, the next South Africa, then Africa and then the world. Stick a map or a drawing of each “layer” onto the outside of the tin to show what it represents.
Continent bags. For a fun class project, divide pupils into seven groups, or six if you want to leave out Antarctica. Each group gets a continent and a bag. The object is to fill the bag with items that represent that continent. They don’t have to actually be from the continent, but should represent it in some way. So, a cowboy hat could represent North America, while a tea bag could signify Asia.
Make contact. Ask children to get in touch with relatives or friends around the world and have them send something that represents the place where they live. It could be a postcard, a doll, a flag or a photo of an iconic building. Put up a map and mark off all the places as you discuss the items.
Around the world. Split the class into groups and give each a country to research. Have a day where you travel around the world by visiting each group and finding out what they have learnt. Groups can wear their country’s national dress and serve traditional food. Give children a passport to stamp at each country they visit.
Amazing race. This can be a fun variation of Around the World, where groups have to perform a task at each country. Maybe they need to learn the traditional dance, sing the anthem or draw the country’s flag.
Flag fundi. Split the class into groups and give each a continent or two. Children must then find out about and draw all the flags in that continent. Get a large map that outlines the continents and countries and ask children to stick flags onto their countries.
Quiz time. Natural science is full of bizarre and interesting facts, so set a quiz and see who knows the most. The quiz can deal with general knowledge or it can focus on a topic being covered in class. Do it during the lesson, or set it as homework so children learn how to do their own research. Download 15 unusual facts about our planet below for some ideas to get you started.