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Avoid the Biggest Mistakes When Teaching Science Part 3

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Mistake #5. Fear of making mistakes.

Honestly, now… when do you learn more?  When you make mistakes, or when you get it right?  And how many of us have a hard time letting our kids make mistakes?

Edison made thousands of mistakes before he invented the light bulb. Or did he?  His “failures” resulted in the basis for the internal combustion engine, electrical wiring for your house, and hundreds of other things we use every day.  Remember that you always get to choose what something means to you.  You can choose to forget about it, or to learn from it.

When your young chemist is outside and accidentally spills the entire jug of vinegar into your full box of baking soda, just take a breath and say, “Gosh – I’ll bet you didn’t expect that to happen.  Now what are you going to do?”  Make sure you really feel empathy and interest for them, or they’ll feel that, too.

Mistake #6. Having no acuity.

Have you ever had the experience of someone talking to you about something that you had absolutely no interest in whatsoever, but because you were so polite about it, they thought you did

Or worse, you’ve been on the other side of that conversation, thinking someone was interested in what you had to say when they really weren’t?

Kids feel the same way.

As a teacher, educator, coach, and guide, your job is not only to hook them, you need to be aware that kids are different, and not every one of them fits into your method of teaching.  You need to be aware of how your child learns as well as what motivates them.  Once you accomplish that, you’ve got the keys to getting them open and ready for your message. 

Kids can be visual, auditory, kinesthetic, or digital learners.  You can easily tell by asking them to describe something.  If they use words like ‘see’, ‘picture this, or ‘look’, then they’re predominately visual.  Words like ‘hear’ and ‘listen’ are most found in auditory learners  (you’ll also notice more tone inflections and temp changes in their actual voice).  Kinesthetic learners often describe what something feels like. Digital kids base their decisions entirely on logic.

What motivates your child?  “Fire behind” kids need to know what would happen if they didn’t do something.  “Fire in front” kids are motivated into action by painting a picture of how great things can be if they do take action.  You probably know already which your kid fits into best.

Kids can also be predominately mis-matchers or matchers.  Throw three quarters down and ask your kids what they see.  Mis-matchers will find the one quarter that is different and tell you about it.  Matchers will find everything they have in common, like the year, shininess, or all ‘tails’.

Knowing how your child processes how they see the world will give you the awareness on how to best set up their educational experience to fulfill their needs.  Awareness is always the first step. 

If you know your mis-matcher chemist is a fire-in-front kinesthetic learner, and just walked away from the mess he left on the back deck, then simply say, “Feel free to join us for ice cream after you’ve cleaned up what you’ve got going on out here.”

There’s nothing for them to mis-match (you’ve taken the power-struggle out by stating a fact, not a question), you painted a picture of the future (ice cream), and tapped into their kinesthetic senses (‘feel free’ and the image of the ice cream).

Mistake #7. Don’t link up new with old.

If you’ve ever tried to cram for a test, you know what happens the week afterwards… you can’t recall most of it!  You spent all that time, effort, and energy memorizing, only to forget it shortly afterwards. Now why is that?

The only way the human brain ever learns anything is by relating something new with something you already know.  It’s basic psychology. So how do you do that?

Your chemist decided to clean up the mess after all, and now he’s washing his hands before the ice cream is served.  As he scrubs, he notices something interesting… dirty water goes down the drain, but clean water comes out of the faucet.  What gives?

A lot of parents feel uncomfortable on this hot seat, only because they are still under the impression that they have to know all the answers. 

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Your job is to ask questions, to get curious, and to model this for your child.  Here’s how one parent handled this:

“Mom!  Where does clean water come from?”  he stamps out of the bathroom, eyes wide.

“Hmmm… tell me more.”  Mom stalls for time as she racks her brain on how to explain activated carbon and water filtration to a six year old.

“Well, dirty water goes down the drain, and clean water comes out.  How come?”

“Well, have you ever seen me make pasta?”


“How do I get the pasta out of the water when it’s done?” Mom smiles.

Kid is thinking, what is that thing called?  “A strainer!” he shouts with triumph.

“Yep.  Now, can you imagine the holes being small enough to catch the dirt in the water? Good…” and off they go in a discussion of bugs, mud, and germs.

Mom related this new idea with something the young kid already had experience with.  And you can, too.

There you have it – the seven most common mistakes made when teaching science. 

In fact, these apply to many other subjects in their own way.  Few of us ever had a class or mentor to teach us how to teach, or how to make the biggest impact on a child’s education. 

Do whatever you have to in order to do it right.  Read books, get online courses, find a mentor, get a good educational coach, and model a successful teacher.


Learn enormously valuable teaching strategies and get your hands on impressive science projects through our science programs. 

Since 1996, Aurora Lipper has been helping families learn science.  As a mechanical engineer, university instructor, pilot, astronomer, and rocket scientist, Aurora can transform toilet paper tubes into real working radios and make laser light shows from Tupperware. 

Visit our website to download your free copy of the Science Activity Guide at

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