How Unschooled Children Learn About Science and Technology

Children love to learn about the world around them, and how things work. Science is in everything that we do and everywhere we go.  

Children learn about paleontology and geology when they learn about dinosaurs and fossils, and volcanoes and earthquakes. They learn about chemistry when they bake, and can see how the chemical reactions of combining certain ingredients and heat changes the consistency of batter into a delicious muffin, cookie, cake, etc. They learn about biology, anatomy and physiology when they learn about the human body (and animals’ bodies, for that matter). 

Having a mother who is a massage therapist, my children have grown up receiving massages and they are familiar with the muscular system and functions. We have a children’s book that is the aptly titled, “The Human Body”, which shows pictures of the many organs and systems of the body, and all of their functions.

I also have a book that has photos of embryos and fetuses in utero at every stage, and when I was pregnant with my daughter, my boys and I would look at it every week so we could see what she looked like and how she was changing and growing.

I had a home birth and the boys came in and out of the room as I labored, and they were able to meet their sister when she was only one or two minutes old. My youngest son had always wondered about the umbilical clamp he has seen in his baby pictures, so he was able to see how it worked when he saw his sister’s umbilical cord clamped and cut. He was fascinated by the placenta and umbilical cord, and my midwife was great at showing it all to him and answering his questions.  

We also talk about microbiology and pathology when we get sick. The children learn about botany when we garden. We grow some of our own vegetables and herbs, and they can see firsthand the process from seed to vegetable that we can harvest and eat.

We have always gone on regular outings to the beach, forest, and wetlands for different types of nature play. We often go to the local wildlife park and zoo, which allows the kids to learn more about zoology as well.  

Children also love to figure out how things work. My kids love to see if they can make an idea they have come to life. I remember once when my younger son, who is very interested in construction machinery and he loves to build machines with his Legos that use levers, fulcrums, and pulleys, recently built a large tower crane that required him to figure out counter-balanced weights to keep the crane stable while lifting a heavy load. He quickly realized that too much counterweight resulted in the crane toppling backwards, and not enough counterweight would cause the crane to topple forward when it picked up a load. As the model was quite tall and needing to rotate, he also had to figure out how to effectively brace it so it wouldn’t collapse. Because his father is a builder, he was able to have the assistance of an expert as he figured out what he needed to do, step by step. This led to a conversation about gravity, physics, and mechanical engineering.

Additional opportunities for children to learn about science and technology may include watching wildlife and other science-related documentaries (e.g. David Attenborough, Blue Planet, National Geographic), being involved in recycling and composting, discussing environmental issues, discussing weather phenomena and their causes, conducting science experiments, visiting science fairs and workshops, playing and exploring with magnets, discussing the various machines in our day to day life (cars, dishwasher, washing machine, etc.) and how they work, and doing carpentry and sewing projects.