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Mad about science!



The Hudson Valley’s best places to teach your little ones about the sciences

As parents, we are constantly working education into our young children’s everyday lives before they even reach preschool. We count cars, interpret colors, identify shapes, and so on.

But when it comes to basic science, many parents feel at a loss. Maybe you didn't get A's in your high school chemistry class. Maybe you even fell asleep in your college biology class (or dropped science like a dead weight the minute you got to college).

Fear not! The Hudson Valley offers parents many resources to help tie science into everyday life — meaning you can still raise your own miniature Marie Curie or Isaac Newton!

More great places to experience science with your kids

‘Family Mole Night’

Every October, the chemistry department of SUNY New Paltz invites children to come “guess and test” when they host a local "FamilyMole Night" that coincides with National Chemistry Week.

During this night, the children run a handful of experiments with guidance from chemistry students.

Erica Chase-Salerno of New Paltz brought her children, Declan, 11, and Quinn, 8, last year and said that they had a blast.

“My kids loved making the ice cream with [liquid nitrogen],” she says. “They got a kick out of the cupcake periodic table. My son was wowed by flames that change color according to the fuel source. They appreciated the chance to work with college students, and we love that it's free!”

Mad Science

If going out to the local college doesn't work, then the people who work for Mad Science can travel to where you are!

You can hire them for a birthday party, classroom event, or your children can attend one of their summer camps.

“When children participate in Mad Science activities, they learn in a way that is exciting and interesting to them,” says Rob Moysey, a Mad Science instructor. “We teach science in a way that leads children to be inquisitive about the world around them. As a Mad Scientist, I’m thrilled to teach children so that they will be excited about science, and I always encourage them to explore meaningful scientific experiences in the future.”

Shannon Judson of New Windsor says her children, Taryn, 8, and Kiernan, 5, have attended multiple Mad Science shows.

“The program kept the children entertained,” she says. “It had age appropriate material that fascinates and engages the children from start to finish. It also allowed the children to participate, which was a great experience. To see your child take what they learned or something brand new and allow it to expand their mind is a wonderful experience." 

Abigail Puffer, 7, of Tillson loves to visit Forsyth Nature Center in Kingston. The center has 24 animal exhibits with educational displays and extensive gardens.

Forsyth Nature Center

Something a bit more low key can be found at the ForsythNature Center in Kingston, which includes a zoo that openly gives you suggestions for what to bring to feed the animals.

Kathy and Ed Puffer of Tillson go there often with their daughters Abigail, 7, and Meredith, 5.

When asked about their experiences there, Ed says, “We love it because it's not too big, and it’s easy to get around. Oftentimes, the girls go around a couple of times. They love being close to the animals, and being able to feed them.”

For more information about their nature programs and special events, visit forsythnaturecenter.org.


Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum

“Scientific principles can be applied to anything,” says Jeanine Petrarca, a preschool teacher from Highland. “In science, you take a guess and then you test that guess. That is the purest form of science.”

During a recent field trip to the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum in Poughkeepsie with her 4-year-old daughter Isabella’s class, Petrarka says she was able to get some great ideas about water cycles to teach her own preschool class at Pattycake Playhouse in Newburgh.

What to know when looking for an enrichment program for your child

Finding answers together

Science can be found everywhere, even in your own home or backyard. From earth science (rocks, minerals, weather) to biology (animals, plants) to chemistry (cooking, fireworks, cleaners) to physics (astronomy, movement, electricity, magnetism), the main underlying factor in all of the branches of science is the critical thinking.

As you’re spending time with your children, ask your children questions about things that you experience in your everyday life.

For instance, “Why do you think that plant is green?” or “Where do clouds come from?”

Many people get intimidated by asking these questions because they themselves don't know the answers. And that's OK. Your children aren't going to think any less of you for not knowing an answer.

Instead, let them come up with their own hypothesis for their answer without you giving any input, or start a research notebook with them where you write down the questions together and look them up at the computer.

Just teaching them to find answers on their own will put them that much farther ahead in life.

Jacqueline Bair is a science enthusiast who lives with her family in Rosendale.