STEM Focus In Homeschool

science experiments that improve worldview

EPISODE 150| Science can start with small experiments and grow like antacids and soda. As we advance our understanding of how things work, it can go from fun to a little scary at times for both the teacher and the student. Yet it is an area where children and parents can grow together and expand their worldview. It is also an area where the teacher can guide a student into exploring extraordinary things like the cosmos and more real-world topics like what they could do for a career. Join Janna and her guest, Scott Burns, as they discuss STEM and how hands-on learning can help inspire your students and you.

ABOUT OUR GUEST | Scott Burns is the National Sales Director for Home Science Tools. For over 20 years Scott has been a noteworthy leader in the education and EdTech industry. He is passionately driven to provide science education solutions to learners at all phases of their journey. Scott specializes in building lifelong connections with educators and students to find solutions that help them achieve higher-quality academic experiences. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from St. Norbert College.​

Listen to this podcast episode

Podcast Transcript


Scott  07:16:  You really don't. It takes discipline. You know, my sister has two boys now that are in high school. And she's like, Scott, the math doesn't look the same way that we learned it when we were back in school. It's different now. So she had to teach herself to help teach her boys as they were going through and learning about mathematics. But you're right, it's a total language. It's right now said that the world is short about 250 million careers. When it comes to the pipeline of mathematics. You're talking banking, coding, you're talking languages, the IRS is trying to hire 80,000, new auditors you have all these different places where they're trying to use, and we don't have them, the people who have the foundational skills that we now have to be able to fill a lot of these careers. If a student wants to have a pathway. Having a foundation in math is a great starting point. Because it is a great sort of jumping-off point to almost anything in the world that the world might.

Janna  08:26: And if you have a mathematically minded child, gifted it just they think in numbers and patterns. And then I hear parents say, I can't get them to do science. I'm like, well, there are so many numbers in science, there are so many ways that you can use whether it's math or whether it's English, the social sciences, I mean, it all can be used together in each and every area. So if you have a child who likes math, there are certainly ways that you can show them how statistics are part of science, and how you can number anything. I mean, there's just, it's the creativity. I think that sometimes as homeschool parents, we were tired and overwhelmed. And that's why a product like home science tools, is there to come alongside and partner with us to get this done.

Scott  09:15: Well, and we can't forget about language arts. Reading is absolutely fundamental. A good friend of mine, Ashley is a marine biologist and researcher. When she was young, she lived on the beach in Melbourne, Florida. And she was inspired and she said I want to work with dolphins. I want to be a marine biologist. She went to high school, and she had no idea when she'd ever use the theory and when she would have to be writing reports. She needed the language arts skills because she's writing reports and presenting to people all across the world about the research that she's doing with sea turtles and manatees in Florida. She needs the Pythagorean theorems So she can set her camera up properly when they are documenting how turtles are migrating back to the scene, she needs to have the arts and crafts and the ability to have good photography and understand certain things. She also needs to know this, her social studies skills, right, she needs to know geography. And she needs to map where these creatures are going how they're migrating and how they're coming back. And it's all about being a well-rounded, holistic student and child. So you can take those careers, when she thought all she was going to get to do was play with dolphins all day as a marine biologist, she had no idea all the other things that are so important. And it all comes back to being a well-rounded student. You know, a good friend of mine that I just met. And I've been talking to her lately, she uses her reading block, and she brings in all this great science of books in nonfiction text into her reading block. So when her students over her kids are sitting down, and they're sitting there and they're reading, they're reading about scientists, they're reading about sharks, and they're reading about things. It's great to have a great plethora of books at your home if you have access or the library. But making sure you mix in all the different science and different mathematical types of books into your reading is such a great way to get kids inspired about those different types of opportunities.

Janna  11:27: And there's nothing wrong with capitalizing a special interest of your child. If it is sharks, then read all about sharks, write all about sharks, find statistics about sharks, and add and subtract sharks. I mean, there's nothing that says to be well rounded, you have to talk about a million different things, you can talk about the same thing in each area. And if that's what is inspiring to your child, that's what's going to inspire learning.

Scott  11:57: Absolutely. And capitalizing on that interest, right? No student ever wants to sit down, no kid ever wants to sit down, I hated doing worksheets, worksheets were not for me. But if you gave me something about sharks, you gave them something about something I was interested in, now you're investing you know that, that I'm, they want to do something for me, my passion, passion is a great way to get them interested in getting them wrapped into what you want to do. And it's important that school and learning should be fun. When you're learning about items that are out there, why not make it engaging and fun? And going into their interest is the best way to do

Janna  12:45: I hear parents say, Okay, I think it's great to follow interest-led learning, I think it's great to capitalize on my child's passion, but there will be a point in time where they're gonna have to do something that they're just not interested in. And if you're in a traditional model, and you and you want to have a transcript, and you want to be prepared for college, there is truth in that, right? Like, there is truth that you're going to have to look at the biology of an animal, even though all you want to do is study the stars. But I think that if we can get kids to love learning, and that is initially following their passions, and getting them invested, then they trust you enough that when it's time to look at the stars, or vice versa, it's time to do the dissection, you say, Okay, this may not be the number one thing that you want to do today. But I promise you, this ties into everything that you want to know, this is you know, a road on your journey that's going to get you to your goal. And I think as parents, sometimes we just get really nervous, like, I don't want my kid to hate science. So I don't want to push them too hard. But when you have a product where the kids can actually get in there, open the kit, get their hands in there, and actually do the learning that, you know, maybe initially they weren't excited about but I don't know about you, but I'm the type of person that I may drag my feet. But then once I start getting into it, I'm like, Okay, actually, there's, I see the value in this.

Scott  14:08: There's so much value in that. I would say this as well. There's always a caveat, there's always something carrot that you can put out there to get them to do the things that need to be done. The other thing that I heard was that was such a great idea. Parents only started doing interviews with their friends who had careers and they asked those people, and their children to sit in on these interviews. What did you need to do as a student to prepare yourself for this career path? What are the most important things? And having those interviews and learning about what those careers are and what those needs are is such a valuable tool, and you can start that as early as middle school and especially in high school, especially when students are starting to figure out what they're passionate in then when they're graduating, and maybe they go into vocational schools, maybe they go into a traditional college or they do something else. There are opportunities for them to get certificates before they even get out into the workforce to be a well-rounded employee. And knowing what it takes to really be that candidate in this world where everybody's looking for quality talent. And so finding out what his child is interested in finding out how you can build that trust so that when it is time to do the eyeball dissection, or whatever it might be, they're all in and they're going to be able to trust the fact that you're doing it because this is a part of the pathway to get to where we want to go. But I agree, it's, it's right now, it is more important than ever, that we find ways to really engage and build that trust with our, with our kids, that when they are doing the learning, the learning is building a foundation, right? Like when you build a house, you're building a foundation, and all these skills and all everything that you've learned, you're building upon it, and you're hopefully going to be able to build that house, right? You can't build it without a solid foundation and having all the skills requisite for the next step is so paramount, not only for their social and emotional well-being but to be a great employee, a great husband, a great brother or sister, or whatever it might be the learning and building that sort of grit in that. That ability to be able to work through problems and problem-solving. Because that's really what the 21st century STEM careers are what are the problems that we need to solve? And they're worth solving? And how do we build those skills to be able to say, Okay, what do I need to do to work through this complex problem to find the solution?


Janna  16:46: And education is so innovative. One of the things that we are seeing is that it's not about what you can memorize and how well you can take a test. Going back to science and intimidation of the subject, especially as you age up and start getting into the more complex theorems of science. A parent may not know the answer they might not remember from their science class how to do something. And instead of modeling, I should know it all. And because I don't, I'm going to fake it till I make it, we really need to be modeling. I don't know, I'm going to try it with you, and part of sciences. And part of learning it, I may get this wrong. I remember when my husband first took over our homeschool science, he was going to do the experiments weekly, and he would get so frustrated. And he'd be like, these aren't working these science experiments aren't working. And I was like, Well, did you just do it once? Because if one thing is off, if one factor is incorrect, it's not gonna work. And you have to fail in order to learn how to do science. And I don't know that a lot of us are willing to fail.

Scott  18:02: You know, what fail has had such a bad a bad statement, right? But failure is the first attempt. And just like most people, if we're baking or cooking, if we're experimenting, there are so many different variables. You know, I would encourage everybody, if something goes wrong, how could we do this better? Next time you know, what if they say that's wrong? Okay, show me how was it wrong. And have them explain it to you? You know, there are some core tenets when we talk about those STEM fields, right? You're talking about problem-solving solving, creativity, we're talking about critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and data processing, right? That's such a huge thing and analyzing the data. And then, of course, there's computing and everything else that goes in similar technology areas. But I think people really overlook communication and collaboration. 

Communication, since the last few years in this pandemic world that we're coming out of, you know, the interesting part is we've been isolated, we haven't had the ability to communicate, sometimes our bubble got really small. And even in homeschooling, sometimes we think our bubble is small. There are so many like-minded people that are doing homeschooling now that you can reach out to and talk to, you can bridge and build some kind of communication skills, it is going to be paramount for students to have strong communication skills, not only in typing, or texting or whatever it might be in the way that they communicate nowadays, but to actually have a verbal conversation, be able to stand up, go sit down, and then collaborate with a peer to understand and talk through whatever the problem is. Because the one thing is is we all see it from our own lens. And sometimes our perception is our own reality. If we have the ability to communicate and to listen, and then collaborate We're going to be much better off at finding out and solving problems much, much faster. And so it's so important that you think about active listening, and really thinking about not only being the first one to answer, or about getting it right first, right, but really being thoughtful on how we answer and be mindful of somebody else's opinion. If we don't listen to it, we might just, you know, shut down the collaboration that could be there, if we don't give that time to be able to say, Oh, that's a great point. And then with the whole creativity aspect of it, I mean, a great. I saw this done in a small science co-op, and we, the person who was leading the group of I think it was like, eight or nine mixed-age students, asked the students to draw a scientist, there was no real guidance, just draw scientists. What would you think that sciences do? What would you think that scientists would look like? Be as colorful and creative as you want, what you want in your mind, five-minute seven-minute experiment. All they had was paper and pen, and some crayons and markers. It was interesting because the majority of the people had the stigma of the mad scientists with the crazy hair or the explosions and the danger. But it was an older man, in a lab coat, working in isolation. Now, this wasn't the whole case, it was a mixture of boys and girls and mixed ages, there was only one female scientist that was drawn, and it was by a girl. But there were more girls in that thing. So there's a perception of what could be a scientist, right? And so then they started talking about, you know, you think scientists work alone. And so all of a sudden, they started bringing in books and showing them some videos and showing some different aspects of what a scientist could be in the book. You know, I think once we give them the opportunity to see that they could be a female scientist, or they could be a female CEO, or an accountant, or whatever the role might be, we have to make sure that they can see these different careers. And so the the lesson that she took back was is I need to do a better job of opening up their world and thinking of all the different careers that they could potentially be, and not limiting them to their just limited view of just one thing. And so they spent a lot of time looking at all the different great scientists from all across eras, all in different denominations, all men, female, people from different worlds. And, you know, they were talking about all the students up when she asked them to drop a scientist picture, right? After they got through this whole unit, their pictures were more eclectic, more dynamic, and more diverse. And they saw people actually, in the field biologists and people working in different fields, that's what we need to continue to do is just make sure that they can see it. And sometimes we need to see it for ourselves. So we can make sure that we are reflecting that when we're saying those science things. Because, again, students can't be what they can't see. And if we can give them the opportunity that they could be that next great doctor, or that next great, they could be maybe solving some of our world problems because hopefully, they're the ones are gonna be taking care of us.

Janna  23:36: If we do our jobs, well, they will be taking care of us well. So we definitely have to have forward thinking as we are presenting these ideas to our children and giving them and finding curriculum actually, that will help us give them a solid foundation in these areas because I am no scientist. But I do appreciate all of the things that science brings. And it helps make my life better and technology and all these different areas. I think we need to be very careful in how as parents, we present these things and phrase these things like you're saying because we are so ingrained in our own ways. We're not even aware or conscious of how we are maybe saying science, rhetoric or math, I don't know, you know, we have our own biases that come out to our children, that unless we are intentional, to be very positive and say, Okay, I didn't have a great experience in this area in my education, but we're going to do better. We're going to learn together we're going to you know, it's like really helping homeschool parents understand that homeschooling is really about partnering with your children collaborating, you really are building them up. You can't lead where you haven't been. And I don't want to pretend like I am things that I am not to my children that just doesn't work out. First of all, there'll be the ones to put Get it out and call you, you know, well back in our day you were a poser, but I don't know what you are these days my children would again call me, Boomer, which I'm not but same. But the idea is education used to be someone who was an expert and come and follow, you know, down the path that I've already blazed, but in homeschool. So you don't have to pretend you don't have to, you know, have all of this knowledge, you just need to help them find and tap into the knowledge that's already out there.

Scott  25:30: Absolutely. When it comes to the flexibility of having your homeschooling model, set it up in whatever works for you don't think you have to fit into this box of education. That's the reason why we do homeschool. That's a reason why you want to be able to have that. Right? I saw a ton of parents this summer who were saying, You know what, we're going to do a ton of our science learning in the summer months because we can be outside we can be as messy as we want. We're going to extend the learning and disguise the learning in all of our spawn summer activities. So they're still doing fun activities in the summer, they're still inspiring your students to continue learning, they're bringing in a little bit sprinkling a little map, they're sprinkling in a little bit of the reading, right, you have little things that you can do and you're sprinkling continual learning, the beauty of the homeschooling is you're not dropping off at 830 and picking her up at 330. And then all of a sudden, you have the whole data set up what you want it to be. Capitalizing on the interests, capitalizing in that way to bring energy to it is the way that we're going to get them in there and shape the conversation of what is a STEM career. Right now the International Science Foundation is saying that 80% of careers by 2025 will be STEM-based career that is going to need math, they need some sort of sciences, some sort of critical thinking, and being able to have those types of things are so important. And if we make sure that we brain that and we give them the opportunity to see all the different careers, I have a great friend who has two beautiful young girls, she's a great baker. She's sitting down and her kids are doing math, if you think about the science and the math in baking, right? She's doing math with these girls as they're baking, and they're totally involved. Why not bring that passion into it, because they're doing the math, they're having the fun, and then you get the sweet cookie treats at the end. So it's all those different ways on how we can build the learning and keep it going. It's so it's going to be so key for our kiddos as they move forward.

Janna  27:41: So Scott, as we close out this podcast, I would love to know if you have a homeschool hack or life hack for our listeners.

Scott  27:52: Wow. How much time Yeah. I would say this, ask questions. First and foremost, ask the questions. What are they interested in, and then go backward with design, right? Think about what their interests are, think about and look at what you need to do. Build a scope and sequence planning out what you need to accomplish right for your day. And then sprinkle in all those fun interesting things within the areas of your day. You know, I think everything should be hands-on. When you are hands-on it makes the learning sticky. It's like mental Velcro. And when you're reading about a dissection, okay, that's interesting. But when you see it, you get to touch and feel or when you're looking through a microphone or a microscope. And you get to see the things that you went out and collected on your nature wall. Right? That is when you really get to see the magic happen. Now, there are so many great people that are out there, you are not alone, when you're planning out what to find. Find a pod, find a homeschool unit in your neighborhood in your community, find a Facebook page, and look and listen to see what people are doing. Pilot the ideas. There's nothing better than taking some ideas. And then, of course, looking at it that works. It works great. Make it your own, spin it around, you know your kids better than anybody else. Make it and design it for what you know is going to be successful, rather than just trying to fit something you know, a square peg in a round hole just doesn't make any sense.

Janna  29:34: Well, I appreciate that permission to really take some time as a homeschool parent and think about why we're doing the things that we're doing and if we could be doing them in a more beneficial way for our students and not necessarily the way we think it should be done?

Scott  29:49: Listen, at the end of the day. We're all in it about our kids, right? We all want them to grow. We all want them to be better. We want them to be the best person that they can possibly be. The only way you can do that. It's giving them that foundation to learn, and to be willing and wanting to go deeper into those things. And if we make it interesting, they will go deeper, they will learn more, and they will have a super successful career in life beyond what we can ever imagine.

Janna  30:17: And isn't that what we all want for our children? So, you've heard it here at Homeschool Your Way Scott gave you some words of wisdom and how to make your homeschool fit you and your students. So Scott, thank you so much for being here today.

Scott  30:31: We listen to anybody who wants to learn more about getting hands-on with science come to home science tools, the account we'd love to learn more about how we can help support you and your learners. Have a great joy for the learning of science.

Janna  30:44: Thank you guys. Until next time, bye bye