Bring Back Obsolete Words

influence word choice, bring back obsolete words,
No blood, just vocabulary. (CCO public domain wilhei)

Human experimentation is banned unless the subjects are volunteers who have given informed consent. I believe the more casual research my son recently tried is exempt from those rules.

Let me explain.

My son worked with the grounds crew for a local park system. Being the sort of person who enjoys occupying his mind with more lively endeavors than weed whacking, he found other ways to keep himself amused. It may be helpful to point out that he and his siblings know many more words than they can pronounce. Their vocabularies are considered odd by others. Their dinner table discussions are, at best, eccentric. These tendencies can be almost entirely blamed on one habit: avid reading.

My son used this social liability as the basis for the human experimentation trials he conducted on his unwitting co-workers. The research took all summer. His subjects were not aware that they were part of the study until it was too late. The damage had been done. The results were in. I’m going to tell you how to conduct the same experiment.


You, the experimenter, can bring  nearly extinct words and phrases back into regular usage. (See, you’re providing a service to an endangered vocabulary, while at the same time smiling on the inside.)


Employing an outmoded word or phrase on a daily basis will subtly promote its usefulness and stimulate others to add it to their ordinary lexicon. Basically, you get people to say funny words.


1. You will need subjects. Rely on people you see everyday. Your children, co-workers, neighbors, or friends are excellent victims candidates for your experiment. The more the merrier. If you want to get all science-y, choose a group of people you interact with separately from all other groups. They will form your experimental group, while everyone else in your life will be your control group.

2. You will need a word or phrase you think shouldn’t have fallen out of popular usage. My son chose “dagnabbit,” one of the many oddly amusing words his grandfather used without a hint of irony. (That was a rich well indeed. Other possibilities from my paternal line included “holy mackerel,” “jehoshaphat,” and “tarnation.”)


This is a casual experiment, best done over a long period of time. Begin using your chosen word or phrase regularly, but naturally in your conversation. Pay no obvious heed to the word as it is adopted by others.

If people make a fuss over your use of the word, you may choose to insist it is back in style. Or you may use the opportunity to expand the experiment by promoting those subjects to fellow experimenters. Explain what you are doing in the most noble terms possible, then implore the person use his or her own outdated word or phrase in daily conversation. You’re simply enlarging the Human Experimentation of the Word Kind study, surely to enhance our world as we know it.


See how long it takes to firmly embed your word or phrase in other people’s regular discourse.


Have you gotten subjects to say funny words? Then you’ve proven the hypothesis and done your part to save endangered terms. Another successful Human Experiment of the Word Kind. BTW, my son’s co-workers were all using the word “dagnabbit” within the month. Oh yeah, humans are easy prey for experimentation. I’ve read enough dystopian novels to warn you: don’t take this knowledge too far…

Experiment With Fun With the Spangler Science Club

All Photos: Kelly Knox
All Photos: Kelly Knox

If there’s anyone who knows how to make science exciting, it’s Steve Spangler. Have you seen this guy launch hundreds of film canisters on Ellen? Steve brings that same enthusiasm and love of science to the new Spangler Science Club subscription kits, which deliver kid-friendly experiments to your doorstep every month. While the kits aren’t inexpensive, the high-quality tools, detailed instructions, and overall sense of science-y fun are well worth it if you’re looking to foster a love of science.

The monthly subscription kit is packed with just about everything kids in grades K-6 need to run a series of experiments. And I mean just about everything—we only had to supply the water for the experiments in the first kit. I was particularly impressed with the test tubes in the box, which aren’t your run-of-the-mill science equipment, but instead come from a surprising source. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say the tubes are sturdy and perfectly suited for kids’ hands.

Spangler Science Club
All Photos: Kelly Knox

The box includes two sets of instructions for running the experiments. One set, the “Top Secret” info for parents, includes the how and the why behind the science experiments. When we do experiments as a family, I always appreciate having info handy so I don’t have to go scrambling to Google to find the details behind what we’re observing. The text also puts the science in terms that kids (and grownups) can understand, so parents can explain concepts like osmosis and chemical reactions and sound like we actually know what we’re talking about.

The kids’ step-by-step walkthroughs not only include clear color photos and concise instructions, but also writing prompts to get kids thinking like scientists. Questions ask kids to predict what might happen and form their own hypothesis.

Spangler Science Club
All Photos: Kelly Knox

All instructions are laced with a sense of humor and enthusiasm, which shows kids that science isn’t all serious business—it’s actually fun to explore the world around us.

Experiments are designed to be done together with parents, along with some activities for the kids to spend some time on their own exploring the concepts. In the first kit, that meant my kindergartener had some hands-on time with color mixing by herself, taking the time to really make the experiment her own.

Spangler Science Club
All Photos: Kelly Knox

Every parent wants to share discoveries and encourage a love of science in their kids, but it requires a bit of an investment for a high-quality educational kit like the Spangler Science Club. Subscription costs range from $24.99-$29.99 a month, depending on the subscription plan. While you may balk at the price, it seems to be a fair cost for everything you receive each month, which includes the equipment, instructions, and shipping. There are also enough components in the box to run the experiments more than once or let siblings get in on the science action together.

If you have room in your budget and it’s important to you to encourage a love of science in your kids, Spangler Science Club is an incredible opportunity to turn science into fun family time every month.

GeekMom received a promotional kit for review purposes.

Summer Science Fun: Help the Bees!

Image By

Any science experiment can be fun and educational, but what if you could also be participating in a real study to help our world? I believe science comes alive when you don’t know the outcome, when you are part of a community, and when your effort really makes a difference. For those who live in North America, your family can be part of the Bumble Bee Watch.

We need bees to pollinate our world, but their populations are in decline. At the moment, scientists don’t have enough data and need your help! All you need is a camera and the internet. From the Bumble Bee Watch website:

This citizen science project allows for individuals to:

  • Upload photos of bumble bees to start a virtual bumble bee collection;
  • Identify the bumble bees in your photos and have your identifications verified by experts;
  • Help researchers determine the status and conservation needs of bumble bees;
  • Help locate rare or endangered populations of bumble bees;
  • Learn about bumble bees, their ecology, and ongoing conservation efforts; and
  • Connect with other citizen scientists.

This is a great summer project the whole family can participate in, and is good for all ages. Sign up and make science come alive!

Summer Science Fun: Do Leaves Breathe?

All Photos: Kelly Knox
All Photos: Kelly Knox

Sunshine, water, and leaves are not only the perfect ingredients for a summer day, but also almost all you need to demonstrate simple plant biology basics. These experiments start with one little question to ask your preschooler or kindergartener: “Do you think plants breathe?”

Bubbly Leaves

Grab a glass jar with a lid from the kitchen, fill it with water, and head outside on a sunny day. After your child selects a large leaf from a plant or tree nearby (which by itself had my five-year-old occupied for a while), drop it into the jar and close it. Place the jar in a sunny spot. After an hour, ask your child to look in the jar and report what they see inside.


As oxygen is released by the leaf in the sun, many tiny bubbles form to show photosynthesis in action. While your kids are likely a little too young to understand much about the process, you can explain that it’s how plants turn sunshine into food and release oxygen for us to breathe. For more help talking—or singing—about photosynthesis, just ask They Might Be Giants.

Older kids might enjoy learning more about the science behind the experiment, or trying variations. What if the jar is left in the shade? What if you use a brown leaf in the autumn?

Original experiment found in Earth Science Experiments by Louis V. Loeschnig.

Capturing Leaf “Breath”

Leaf Breath

Not only do plants produce oxygen, your child might be surprised to learn they release tiny drops of water as well. While you’re waiting to go back and check on the jar of water, get a plastic sandwich bag and a rubber band or tape. Send your little leaf scout back out to find a small branch or clump of leaves.

Gently place the bag over the leaves and seal it with the rubber band or tape. After a couple of hours, check on the bag and see what’s inside. Your child will discover droplets of water captured by the bag. Plant “breath” has water much like our breath fogs up a window or mirror.

Want more know-how on the process? Read up on transpiration and be prepared for your preschooler’s persistent questions.

Seed Science

Image By Rebecca Angel.

Science is about questions, getting dirty, observing, discovering, and having more questions. For many of us taught in traditional schools, science “lab” was about following directions and if you didn’t get the correct result, you were wrong. That is a great way to kill anyone’s curiosity or love of true science. Don’t let that happen with your kids!

Your child’s education may include a fantastic science program or not, but you can always do fun things as a family. It’s spring (it may not feel like it, depending on where you live, but technically…) and that means planning a garden. I’m no green thumb. That’s my husband, but the kids and I are involved throughout the growing season.

This year, my son (15) decided on a science project that involved growing seeds. He wondered about chamomile tea and if it was good for plants. Some websites said yes, but were really vague. He decided to do his own study.

We went to the garden store and spent a minimal amount of money on basil seeds (because they can be transplanted in our garden or grown inside in pots afterwards. And I like basil!), potting soil, and a few containers.

Next he planted the seeds in three groups:

1. Potting soil that will have plain water every day.

2. Potting soil that will have brewed (and cooled) chamomile tea every day.

3. Potting soil mixed with chamomile that will have plain water every day.

Originally, he only had groups 2 and 3, which led to a discussion on why you want a “control” in your study.

It’s been a couple of weeks and they are just starting to sprout. Guess what he’s found out so far? Light is far more important than anything else he’s doing. The seedlings closest to his light source are doing the best. Does that mean his experiment isn’t good? Not at all! He’s learning that there may be other factors that affect his outcome. This will lead to a better experiment next time. And that’s real science learning.

For your own experiment, let your child look through your spice or tea cabinet and choose something they think will help or hurt plants. Let them plant some seeds and take care of them. Will they spill dirt, take up space in your house, and need reminding about watering? Probably. But science isn’t neat and helping them succeed is worth the inconvenience.

Remember: Success is simply completing the experiment, regardless of the outcome. Look at the results together and chat about what worked in their design and what would make a clearer result next time. You don’t have to be a scientist yourself to have a conversation about it—just be curious and observant.

 Here is a lot of good information on what seeds need and how to plant them. And here’s a video on seed starting:

What are other easy seed experiments you have done (or want to do)?

FETCH! With Ruff Ruffman Returns in New Book Series

© Candlewick Press

The long-running PBS Kids series FETCH! With Ruff Ruffman has been off the air for a few years now, much to the dismay of wannabe Fetchers everywhere. Geek kids found a lot to love in the one-of-a-kind show. If you’re unfamiliar with the series, Ruff Ruffman was the animated canine host of his own game show that was part cartoon and part reality. The real-life kid contestants, called Fetchers, participated in challenges that often involved scientific processes and creative problem solving.

My daughter is a fan of FETCH! thanks to the PBS Kids app and reruns on our local PBS channel, so she was ecstatic to hear that Ruff Ruffman would be making a return this year–in the pages of new books from Candlewick Press.

FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman: Doggie Duties and FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman: Show’s Over feature the show’s lovable characters Ruff, Blossom, and Chet in adventures that are simultaneously entertaining and educational. Both books are early reader chapter books aimed at kids age 6-9.

At the end of each book, kids will find science activities related to the story. Show’s Over features a study of buoyancy well-suited to my 4-year-old; she enjoyed crafting aluminum foil boats in different shapes to see what floats best. (Luckily, the book does provide some scientific explanation for what we were seeing in our experiment, unlike my  previous failure explaining buoyancy.) In Doggie Duties, kids and parents can create a detailed water filtration system out of many items found around the house.

Photo: Kelly Knox

As excited as we were to see Ruff Ruffman in action again, it was disappointing to discover that the books are re-tellings of existing FETCH! episodes (minus the contestant challenges). Hopefully if the series sees a revival in book form, original stories and experiments with my daughter’s favorite dog-and-game-show-host will one day follow.

Doggies Duties is available today in paperback and hardback; Show’s Over makes its debut in April.

GeekMom received promotional copies for review purposes.

STEM Science Stations Float Kids’ Boats

“Sink or Float” STEM Science Station. Image Courtesy © Lakeshore Learning

My preschooler is constantly begging to “do science,” and I am always happy to oblige. I was delighted to learn that Lakeshore Learning, a toy store specializing in educational toys, is offering new “STEM Science Stations” to encourage science exploration. As big of a fan as my four-year-old is of splashing in water, I knew we had to start with the “Sink or Float” kit to explore buoyancy.

The “Sink or Float” Science Station is packed with 8 activity cards and materials to complete each one. The card features one question to kick off the activity, and the little learner is tasked with experimenting with the floating and sinking items in the kit. On the back of each card, there are additional questions to help guide the activity, along with discussion questions to explore the buoyancy principles behind it.

While the cards provide fantastic guidance for the kids getting their hands wet, to my dismay I found that there are no facts or additional information to answer the inevitable follow-up questions. When pressed to explain the how and why behind the ability of some things to both sink AND float, I found myself unable to answer coherently. If I had prepared ahead of time — which I will for next time! — my daughter would have taken more away from our playtime.

The other STEM Station activity boxes offered by Lakeshore Learning cover magnets and motion. The kits are better suited to groups such as schools and homeschool groups to fully participate in the activity and discussion, but they can work well for a snowy afternoon at home with the kids.

Lakeshore Learning is offering a special discount for GeekMom readers! Use this coupon for 20% off one nonsale item online or in stores.

GeekMom received a promotional copy for review purposes.

Water Fun: Experiments for Mini Scientists

Water Fun
GeekMom Helen has water fun with her own mini scientist.
Photograph © Helen Barker

On our last trip to our local library, my daughter chose a book from the non-fiction shelves which I hadn’t seen before. Called Mini Scientist Water Fun, it contained a number of simple experiments suitable for young children to carry out with a little adult help. As both a teacher and parent I am really keen to encourage my daughter to be curious about the world around her, so this sounded perfect. I also thought that this would be a good way to start to introduce some basic scientific principles, as well as keep her amused during half term to boot!

The book includes plenty of experiments to explore different aspects of water science. We liked looking at the surface tension of water using paper clips. It was interesting to ask my daughter what she thought would happen when I placed paper clips onto the surface of a glass of water, and then ask her to explain why they hadn’t sunk like she thought. At first she said that they were light and not heavy, and we spent lots of time talking about surface tension and watching videos of pond skaters and other insects which use the surface tension to move around. She also noticed that the paper clips looked different when viewed through the side of the glass than from the top, which I liked because this is the start of her developing her skills of observation.

We liked seeing paper clips demonstrating surface tension.
Photograph © Helen Barker

By far our favorite experiment was the chromatography. I bought a set of coffee filter papers and we spent ages looking at the different ink colors that the chromatography revealed. She was able to carry out the experiment completely single handedly, and even developed the experiment further by using two colors of ink at a time. This started lots of discussion about color theory and how you can mix colors together to produce new colors, such as the green pen which proved to be made of blue and yellow inks. The darker inks produced better results, and had the bonus of adding “cyan” to her vocabulary.

The results of our chromatography experiments were really colorful!
Photograph © Helen Barker

The Water Fun book certainly produced the required result, as my daughter shouted in glee, “Can we do more experiments now?” It really warmed this GeekMom’s heart to see her so enthused about science and learning.

There are three more books in this series from DK written by meteorologist Lisa Burke, including books with kitchen and garden/backyard experiments, and experiments about the human body. There are example pages and more details on the DK site. I’ll certainly be looking for more of these books next time we visit the library.

Elephant Toothpaste Fail

In my family we get science on everything. Most of the time that means we dive deep into what interests us, no matter how strange. My daughter recently transported an entire deer skeleton out of our woods, cleaned the bones, and reassembled it in the yard. This week one of my sons rebuilt a radio so old that it’s powered by vacuum tubes. Few of our science-y pursuits have to do with beakers and chemicals, but when one of my kids discovered a reaction called Elephant Toothpaste we had to try it.


elephant toothpaste, elephant toothpaste fail,
What’s supposed to happen! Screenshot:

There are two ways to create this reaction. A home version can be done with low power ingredients. Naturally we went right for the lab version requiring 30 percent hydrogen peroxide (found at beauty supply stores) and potassium iodide (Kl) . The supplies aren’t easy to obtain and we ended up buying a liquid form of of Kl, which may have been our downfall.

We assembled our set-up in the front yard. A two liter soda bottle inside a tin container, safety precautions, and a lot of anticipation. One kid taped the soon-to-be spectacular event, another kid was ready with a large syringe of hydrogen peroxide, and a parent was cued to dump in the Kl.

Ready! Set!


The resulting froth was less than you’d get from pouring a glass of root beer. We did note some warmth felt through the plastic bottle, a minor exothermic reaction. A more significant reaction? Sarcastic comments.

Undaunted we speculated that there was too much soap, so we rinsed and tried again.


Then we went Mythbusters, adding way more of the ingredients (in proportion) for a bigger reaction.

Still nothing.

Elephants don’t brush their teeth anyway.

Anyone else try this and succeed?

Hands-Free Is Just As Bad! Distracted While Driving

AAAAAAH! Teenagers driving! Image by Rebecca Angel

“People often don’t readily accept science that angers or inconveniences them.”

That is a quote from sociologist Clifford Nass of Stanford University in the August 24th issue of Science News that featured a story on why science is constantly showing that talking on a phone (texting, holding, or hands-free) while driving is dangerous, and why the average person doesn’t want to hear it.  As a parent of a kid learning how to drive this is troubling to me.

According to the article, studies as early as 1997 have shown that we CAN’T multi-task, and this includes having a conversation with a disembodied voice, and paying attention to our own driving. The human brain toggles back and forth between things, and for some reason, having a phone conversation takes a lot of our brain’s attention, regardless if the phone is in your hand or not. Some researchers believe we make a mental picture of the person on the phone, constantly altering this picture as they talk, to recreate a real-life interaction. This takes away from our being fully present as a driver. Talking with someone in the car does not pose the same distraction.

The worst part is that people don’t notice how badly they are driving.

According to the data, people will do stupid things on the road while talking on the phone, but not even notice it. This is called “metacognitive awareness.” They get home and think they were driving just fine, so why change? The only wake-up call is when an accident happens and then it’s too late. Most driving trips are boring and uneventful so people fail to understand how they are upping their risk of hurting themselves and others while talking on the phone.

“Jeffrey Coben, an emergency room physician at West Virginia University in Morgantown, has seen the results of plenty of car accidents. He says injuries seldem occur because of chance events, such as equipment failure or lightning strikes. ‘Vehicle injuries are not accidents. They are predictable and preventable,’ he says. ‘Every crash is an interaction between an individual operation of the vehicle and the environment it’s in.’ The more distractions involved, he says, the greater the risk.”

The article is filled with interesting and eye-opening studies showing how poorly people are attentive while distracted by talking on the phone. My kid can’t even have the radio on while keeping track of everything she needs to on the road. Will she get more comfortable driving to start having more and more distractions in the car? Of course. But she better never talk on the phone. I made her read this article, and you should have your kids do the same. And you too!

Bubble Science: Making the Most of Your Suds

Photo: Evan Bordessa

There’s nothing like spending a summer afternoon blowing—and chasing—bubbles. But does your geekling know why those bubbles pop when she touches them? Steve Spangler says:

A bubble’s worst enemies are oil and dirt.

Years of playing with soap bubbles taught us that if our hands were wet, we could often catch a bubble without popping it, just as a bubble will often land on a wet surface without popping. This premise, of course, requires much experimentation and lots of bubble making. Happily, homemade bubble solution is cheap and super easy to make. Take advantage of the warm days and let your kiddos get wet and wild!

Bubble recipe: Gently stir about one cup of liquid dish soap and a quarter cup of corn syrup into a gallon of water. (See how easy that was?)

To get you started, here are five ways to explore with bubbles. Little yellow wand not required.

Photo: Evan Bordessa

Under the dome: Pour two cups of bubble solution onto a jelly roll pan. With one end of a drinking straw in the bubble mix, blow a giant tabletop bubble. Now for the trick: Dip a matchbox car or other small toy (and any part of your hand that will touch the bubble) into the bubble solution and gently push the car into the bubble.

A string thing: Thread two drinking straws onto a three-foot length of cotton string. Tie ends together in a knot. Holding onto the straws, dip the entire string (and your hands) into bubble solution and lift out, holding the string taut. Use big arm movements to make giant bubbles.

Photo: Evan Bordessa

Handsome bubbles: Dip both of your hands into bubble solution (yes, really!), and clasp hands. Lift hands from the solution and slowly unclasp them, maintaining contact between both thumbs and forefingers to form a diamond shape. Blow through the film of bubble solution.

A rope of soap: Push a plastic pot scrubber or recycled mesh onion bag halfway into a cardboard tube; tape into place. (Unless you’ve got dragon-size lungs, a short tube is better than a long one, here.) Dip the mesh into bubble solution and blow into the opposite end of the tube. You’ll make tiny bubbles, all connected in a long rope.

Big wand: Push a four-foot length of sixteen-gauge wire into a four-foot length of soft, braided rope. Shape the wired rope into a circle, leaving about one foot of rope at each end. Twist the ends together to form a handle. Soak the giant wand in bubble solution, then practice making super-sized bubbles.

Chemistry and Cupcakes

Baking can teach you a lot of things. Following directions, measuring, fractions, and even chemistry. This is a simple experiment using a basic cake/cupcake recipe that I’ve cut in half for smaller batches. We’ll make eight batches total, and in seven of them we’ll take away an ingredient. You’ll learn how all the ingredients work together to make a delicious cupcake.

Sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla extract, all purpose or cake flour, baking powder, milk, cupcake liners, a small cupcake tin, a mixing bowl, an electric mixer, and a spoon.

You’ll also need a notebook and a pencil to record your results. Continue reading Chemistry and Cupcakes

Review:The Geek Dad Book For Aspiring Mad Scientists by Ken Denmead

I don’t think there’s anyone out there that hasn’t imagined themselves a mad scientist at least once. For me, it was every time they made me wear those crazy goggles in science class while I waited for something to bubble over or change color or let out noxious fumes. I couldn’t help but hear an evil little laugh in my head. Muah ha ha ha! Okay, not everyone heard the laugh, but now everyone does have the chance to go all mad scientist and laugh out loud right along with their kids.

The latest in the Geek Dad books, The Geek Dad Book for Aspiring Mad Scientists: The Coolest Experiments and Projects for Science Fairs and Family Fun hits shelves on November 1st and is now available for pre-order. I was fortunate to receive an early copy to check out, and now I’ve got a very long list of experiments my kids have planned for every weekend through next year.

Much like the previous Geek Dad books by Ken Denmead, publisher of and, this one will inspire you and your kids to try new things as you explore and learn. And although it’s a GeekDad book, you’ll find plenty of projects based on ideas from our very own GeekMom editors Kathy Ceceri, Natania Barron and Jenny Williams, so don’t think it’s exclusively for the dads of the world. The projects are rated for cost, difficulty and duration so you know exactly what you’re in for before you start. It’s especially helpful to look at the duration, as although some of the projects can be completed in an hour, like Exploring Fluid Dynamics: The Magic of Mentos and Soda, others can take weeks like Growing Crystals For Power.

There is a range of difficulties covering primary school kids right on up through high school, which makes this ideal fodder for science fair projects. Although the ideas and the how-to are all laid out, the book never loses sight of the fact that science fair projects are supposed to leave kids guessing, at least a little, right until the end.  To help parents with this, there are even handy spoiler warnings where appropriate, pointing out key bits of information that you should hold back from your kids so they learn to discover the answers for themselves.

I think one of the things that I like best about the book is that it isn’t a dry instruction manual.  It’s not just, here’s a project, here’s how you do it, move along.  It actually reads more like a mad scientist’s handbook.  The very first project, Extracting Your Own DNA, is written with an eye toward creating loyal minions to help in your plans for world domination.  Really, who hasn’t wished they could do that, and what kid wouldn’t jump at the chance to see how it might be possible?

And perhaps my favorite section, which I intend to make my kids study, highlight, and study again, contains experiments under the heading Apocalypse Survival Science.  Once we’ve started messing with DNA and creating our own clones, you know the zombie outbreak is just around the corner, and this group of projects nicely addresses that problem.  You and your kids will learn how to save the world together!

Whether you’re looking to inspire a love of science in your young child, or to encourage an older child to hold on to their curiosity about how things work, this book is sure to give you ideas galore and hours of fun and educational entertainment. You can pre-order your copy now at Amazon, B&N, Indiebound, Powell’s, Books-a-Million or iTunes.

Kari Byron, Mythbuster Mom: How Do You Get Kids Interested in Science?

KariCloseUp-e1308329695929GeekMom is thrilled to bring our readers another column by Kari Byron, the female face on the hit Discovery Channel show MythBusters and host of the Science Channel’s new Head Rush. Kari sends us regular updates on life as a MythBuster Mom.

Science is hot right now. Everywhere I travel parents are in a panic to get their kids interested in science. I guess one day, America woke up and realized our pipeline of home-grown engineers, scientists, and inventors was drying up.

Let’s face it: subjects like science and math have an unfortunate reputation for being boring and dry and, dare I say, even “nerdy.” Honestly, that is how I felt when I was 12. Science was so often taught as a list of facts to memorize: “List the components of a cell,” “What does H2O stand for?” “Who is the father of the theory of relativity?” Snore. I didn’t understand why science couldn’t be more like art class. So I can understand where kids are coming from today.

Another huge roadblock for students is the lack of role models in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (what the President calls the STEM initiative) in our media-driven world of glamour, fame, and money. Close your eyes and picture a scientist. Do you see an awkward nerdy man with bad posture, glasses and a lab coat? Who wants to be him when you are inundated with exciting visions of gorgeous movie stars and rich athletes?

Solutions aren’t easy. Parents ask me, “How do I get my kid into science?”

The good news is that if you are asking that question it probably means you are half way there. Being involved is an amazing start. A parent is the most important role model, regardless of what your eye-rolling tween says.

I like to teach science to kids like I teach art. Get their hands dirty. Engage their natural curiosity. Drop Mentos into a bottle of Diet Coke and let it explode all over the backyard. Snap! That’s chemistry. Show them science isn’t just answers on an exam, but the world all around you. Take a nature walk with a camera. Bring home pictures of animals and find out what they eat, when they sleep. Snap! That’s biology. I also like to call it hiding the broccoli in the cheese sauce. Making science more hands-on creates a base of scientific literacy as well as quality time bonding. Your kids will be learning in spite of themselves. That look of wonder and discovery you see in their faces will become addictive -– for both of you.

That’s how MythBusters became a juggernaut of science engagement for kids. We weren’t trying to teach science, we were just having fun while using science as a tool. They see us having fun and join us on the journey.

There you have it, sage advice from a totally unqualified former art major who now loves science and uses it every day.