The Sciencenter's Quarterly Education Newsletter
Building Confidence at Every Stage
Creating Confident Children
This summer, the Sciencenter offers guests the opportunity to try new skills while building confidence in science. Our featured exhibition, Run! Jump! Fly! Adventures in Action, and its accompanying hands-on activities, encourage kids and families to take part in action and adventure activities to expand their physical and intellectual comfort zones.

Research with diverse age-groups has revealed that child-centered, process-based, risk-friendly learning environments make for ideal sites to inspire creativity while upping confidence with science content and skills. Facing, and eventually overcoming, obstacles—whether physical or mental—through the processes of failure and perseverance fosters a sense of empowerment within the realm of science. Strength, coordination, balance, and endurance challenges on the museum floor offer guests the opportunity to take risks in a non-hazardous and safe environment. Meanwhile, the Sciencenter's education programs create chances to try something new, or perhaps intimidating, in a supportive atmosphere. Guests who enter the Saltonstall Animal Room terrified of all things scaly may leave with a new outlook on herpetology after meeting Percy, our lovable corn snake. Similarly, students who try and fail, and try again before succeeding in constructing a buoyant raft from recycled materials at the Reinvention Station learn the value of taking an intellectual risk, and start to identify themselves as problem-solvers or engineers.

At the Sciencenter, we work to instill confidence to interpret scientific information and make an impact in the world around us. Our programming aims to redefine common perceptions of who can be a scientist, beginning with a growth mindset for our youngest visitors and culminating in professional development for museum facilitators, educators, and volunteers.  
Science for All Ages
 How children learn about the world around them
Early Explorers (ages 0 - 5)
Fostering a "Yes" Environment
Teachers and caregivers have the shared goal of supporting children to become confident individuals. Confident individuals are able to form opinions and make decisions, fail and try again, and they know how to take risks. Taking risks can be uncomfortable, especially when you want to keep your young children safe, but allowing children to take risks helps them to develop judgement.

This skill can be cultivated in the early years of development by giving children the space to push limits and try new things. By allowing your child to climb up a structure as far as they are able by themselves, or use scissors and real tools under supervision, they learn the skills needed to perform the task successfullyand on their ownin the future.

This article by Community Playthings offers creative opportunities for healthy risk taking and learning boundaries. "When we support children in taking risks, we give them the chance to learn something new about themselves, their physical abilities, and their thought processes."

Try this! Science Together at the Sciencenter offers opportunities for kids and families to take risks through sensory play and mess. Join us with your little ones to explore gooey flubber or investigate wiggly worms while building confidence, along with many other skills.
Young Scientists (ages 5 - 11)
Creating Confident Facilitators
Elementary school-aged children often feel anxiety about how well they can understand and perform in STEM topics. Many factors can contribute to this anxiety including previous exposure to the subject matter, stereotypes about gender or race, or even food insecurity. One factor that is often overlooked is the confidence level of a child’s teacher. Research increasingly shows that when a teacher feels more confident about approaching STEM topics, that teacher’s students will be more confident, as well.

The National Informal STEM Education Network, of which the Sciencenter is a partner, regularly produces resources to build educators’ confidence in facilitating STEM activities. One such resource is the online workshop series that accompanies the newly-developed Earth and Space activity toolkit. Each one-hour workshop addresses a specific topic, such as The Changing Earth, through presentations and discussion with subject matter experts. These workshops are also excellent resources for parents and caregivers looking to increase their confidence in STEM topics in order to better support their children outside of the classroom.

Try this! Recordings of these workshops are available, along with other resources for educators, parents, and caregivers, on the NISE Network website
Future Science Leaders (ages 11 - 14)
Team Building to Build Confidence
For the Sciencenter’s middle school Future Science Leaders (FSL), training and building confidence is something that we work on all year. C.S. Kunal and M.E. Haas situate confidence within a social context that includes youth’s senses of: independence and responsibility, jealousy, fear, conflict resolution, and empathy. They demonstrate that by addressing these areas of self concept, teachers and youth can develop greater self-confidence. 

In the FSL program we take a similar approach to developing confidence. Members are given opportunities to be independent and responsible by making choices about the types of projects the want to work on and how they will go about the project. We provide them with the tools, resources, and support to be successful, but put them in charge of their own project. We reinforce a positive and respectful atmosphere by regularly participating in team building games as a group. These games allow FSL members a chance to get to know one another and develop relationships which supports greater teamwork on projects.
 
Try this! Our favorite team building game is "Commander". This article from Mindtools has some great ideas for other creative team building games to try with your students or peers.
CESL Spotlight
Collaborative for Early Science Learning:
A Sciencenter-led partnership of museum professionals working with Head Start
Science and STEM topics are often seen as intimidating to many people, including early childhood educators. There are often misconceptions when someone mentions the words "science," "experiments," etc., which may lead to teachers feeling timid when it comes to presenting science topics to their students. Breaking down these stereotypes and helping teachers gain the confidence they need to teach science in classrooms is one of the most important things that can come out of professional development workshops.

A great way to start the conversation about these stereotypes is with an activity called “draw a scientist.” Have the participants draw what they think a scientists looks like and/or have them make a list of adjectives and verbs that come to mind when someone uses the word scientist. After about 5 minutes, come together as a group and discuss what everyone came up with. Trends that someone doing this activity might see are men with big, wild hair, lab coats, beakers, etc. These are the stereotypes that may keep someone from having the confidence to bring more science into the classroom. Breaking down these barriers is important to helping teachers feel ready and prepared to lead science activities in their classroom.

To learn more about introducing science to early childhood teachers visit our toolkit at museumtools.org .
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