Curiosity is a very valuable trait for a young learner to have. After all, if there is no hunger for knowledge there is no growth and attainment of that knowledge. This is even more important for those interested in entering STEM fields, in which curiosity can lead to breakthroughs in medicine, technology, and architecture. But unless the parent of that young learner is a doctor, a technician, or an architect answering those questions can be very difficult. For that reason, these are some common questions that young learners can ask that can be hard to answer with basic answered. And when the young learners have the basics their curiosity will likely fill in the blanks from there.

Question: Why is the sky blue?

Answer: The sky isn’t actually blue. It only looks blue because of the wavelengths of the color spectrum. Every color of the rainbow is in the sky and has its own distinct wavelength. According to Owlcation, the reason the sky shows as blue is “…because the color blue has the shortest wavelength, it collides with nearly everything in its path and is scattered about the sky.” From there, depending on the sophistication of the student, the conversation could then be expanded to the effects of pollution on the color of the sky when it isn’t blue and the different colors that can be reflected in the sky.

Question: How do planes stay up?

Answer: Airplanes are designed to fly far, fast, and ideally, not land until the time is right. They do so because of lift. Newton’s third law says that “Every action leads to an equal and opposite reaction.” Because of this law, the plane wings create two different air streams. One of the streams deflects the air downward. The other stream deflects the air upward and that causes the plane to be lifted up. This is how the plane flies. Not only that, this conversation can be scaled up to include how the plane stays in the air and how Newton’s third law can also be expanded to other vehicles like race cars and helicopters for those students who are passionate about vehicles and going fast.

Question: How are boys and girls different?

Answer: The simple answer is that boys and girls are built differently. Boys have penises that are external. Girls have vulvas which are internal. The more complicated answer is that gender is a lot more complicated than boys and girls. Gender is not solely determined based on internal or external genitalia. Some who are born one gender can feel that that gender does not properly represent who they are. They can sometimes undergo gender reassignment surgery in order to properly align with the gender that they feel is correct. For older students, the conversation can be expanded to non-binary persons who identify as either both genders or neither.  The conversation could be had in many different ways. The only way to approach it wrong would be to ignore it altogether.

Question: Why does my classmate look different from me?

Answer: Everyone’s skin is different. Our species started out living near the Equator, where it was much hotter and exposed to more ultraviolet rays. Melanin developed in the skin of our ancestors as they evolved, making them more able to handle those rays. Later, ancient people groups started to expand outside of SubSaharan Africa. The sun’s rays were less oppressive outside of SubSaharan Africa and that led to some of those ancient humans to not need so much melanin and develop lighter complexions in response to their environments. This conversation can, of course, be expanded to include race relations and the importance of diversity. Much like the gender conversation, the only wrong way to have it is to not approach it at all.

In short, there are a great many questions that a student can ask their parents that will stump them. And though telling those students, “look it up”, “I don’t know”, and “because I said so”, may be convenient for a parent a curious student would need real answers. In time, they will learn to research those answers for themselves. But in the meantime, these answers will get them started in the right direction.

What questions do your little inventor has about the world? Please leave their questions so we can compile them into a reference sheet for families.

Works Cited

Baker, Rhys. “Top 12 Tricky Science Questions Answered.” Owlcation, Owlcation, 11 Aug. 2018, https://owlcation.com/stem/top-10-tricky-science-questions-answered.

Kashef, Ziba. “How to Talk to Your Child About Race.” BabyCenter, BabyCenter, 3 May 2019, https://www.babycenter.com/0_how-to-talk-to-your-child-about-race_3657102.bc.

“10 Popular Science Questions and Answers for Kids.” Home Science Tools, Home Science Tools, 24 Sept. 2019, https://learning-center.homesciencetools.com/article/top-science-questions-kids-ask/.

Wolchover, Natalie. “Easy Answers to Your Kids’ Most Burning Questions.” LiveScience, LiveScience, 24 Jan. 2012, https://www.livescience.com/18099-questions-kids-parents.html.

Nelson, Angela. “Why Is the Sky Blue? A Parent’s Guide to Common Questions Kids Ask.” MNN, Mother Nature Network, 5 June 2017, https://www.mnn.com/family/family-activities/stories/quick-answers-why-sky-blue-and-other-questions-kids-ask.

Klein, Victoria, and Amanda First. “Why? Common Questions Kids Ask and How to Answer.” Parents, Aug. 2012, https://www.parents.com/kids/development/intellectual/why-9-common-questions-kids-ask-and-how-to-answer/.

Thornhill, Nadine. “How To Talk To Young Kids About Gender.” Talk With Your Kids, Talk With Your Kids, 11 Apr. 2016, https://www.talkwithyourkids.org/lets-talk-about/how-talk-young-kids-about-gender.html.

“Modern Human Diversity – Skin Color.” The Smithsonian Institution’s Human Origins Program, 14 Sept. 2018, http://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/genetics/human-skin-color-variation/modern-human-diversity-skin-color.

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