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Barnesville School of Arts & Sciences teachers and other faculty members share insights about childhood development and educational issues.

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Demystifying Research for Kids

Insights from Cindy Barr, Librarian

As a librarian, I love research, but many elementary school students can be intimidated by the word, let alone related projects. That is why it is important for parents and teachers to demystify the concept and show children that research is an important part of our everyday lives.

Kids are naturally curious and ask lots of questions. Parents can help them see that the questions they ask are the basis of good research, and we can model the process of seeking answers. In doing so, we show our kids that research is indeed an everyday practice and not just limited to schoolwork.

When your curious child expresses an interest in learning more about something like dinosaurs, space, baking a cake, or planting a garden, suggest, “Let’s research more about that!” By reading books, watching videos, and looking things up on the internet to find answers to their questions, you are helping them build the foundation of research skills.

For instance, if your child wants to grow his or her own pumpkins, talk through some of the questions that need to be answered first. Do you have enough space and light in your yard? Where can you buy seeds, and how many should you plant? How long does it take to grow pumpkins from seeds? (Sidenote: This is a summer project, not something you start in October!) How often do the plants need to be watered? If they don’t know all the answers, then help them begin with basic research online, in a book, or even just reading the growing instructions on the plant's tag.

You can do the same thing when your family is planning a trip or thinking about making a big purchase. Approach each situation as a family research project. Encourage your child to ask key questions – who, what, when, where, why, how – and then work together to find answers.

The internet is of course a great tool, but only when utilized properly. It is essential to talk to your kids early and often about the varying quality of sources so that they develop good judgment about the credibility of information found on the internet. As your child starts to use the internet independently, encourage him or her to use the WWWDOT Framework -- an acronym of factors to consider when evaluating a website as a possible source of information:

1. Who wrote it and what credentials does he or she have?

2. Why was it written?

3. When was it written or updated?

4. Does it help meet my needs?

5. Organization of site

6. To-do list for the future

Developing research skills is a key part of education and is an asset in any vocation. Parents shouldn’t leave all the instruction to teachers to nurture these fundamental skills, and it’s never too early to start!

-- Cindy Barr is the Librarian and Digital Literacy teacher at the Barnesville School for Arts and Sciences. You can read her professional bio here.

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