Citro, also the author of “150+ Screen-Free Activities for Children,” speaks free at 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3, in the downstairs Readings Gallery of Village Books, 1200 11th St. Her activity books use “inquiry-based science,” which allows children to pretend that they are scientists, actually designing and conducting their own experiments.
“We are designing an erupting volcano,” Citro said. “They’ll get to create their own volcano. It’s amazing because we’ll have a room full of 30 different volcanoes.”
With her new activity book, aimed at ages 4-8, Citro hopes to free children (and parents) from the regimentation that often comes with science. She offers activities that use bright colors and leave plenty of room for children to add their own spin.
“Inquiry science, it’s a big departure from how we were taught science,” Citro said. “Kids are naturally curious, and ask a lot of questions — great questions. True inquiry is letting kids come up with their own questions and design their own experiments.”
Activities and experiments — such as creating a “naked” egg, making a baking soda reaction tray, or studying the reaction time of yeast — encourage children to use bright colors.
“Science and art are really similar, because they’re all about exploration,” Citro said. “Art is something you don’t have to stop and think about — for example how to draw a plant when you are 5, rather than how to spell “plant.”
As with her first book, most of the materials in Citro’s experiments are simple household items. She encourages kids and parents to wear safety goggles, and offers advice on where to find inexpensive, realistic-looking and unbreakable equipment such a beakers, thermometers, Petri dishes and pipettes.
“The book, for me, is about giving them the idea that ‘I am a scientist,’ ” she said.
She cautions parents to give their children the freedom to experiment and possibly even fail.
“I really want to remind adults that we don’t need a kids’ experiment to be accurate. It’s OK to be at the level of a 5-year-old. It’s not going into Scientific American. The important thing is the experience and learning to ask questions,” Citro said.
“Part of science is failure, or to get different results (than you were expecting). In science, in the lab, you fail all the time. But it’s still learning. It’s about saying, ‘That didn’t work. What next?’ ”
Find Robert Mittendorf’s Out With the Kids column online at BellinghamHerald.com/out-with-kids.