The Must-Have Tools Of A Young Science Communicator

What do you do when you have a science-obsessed child with many interests? Get him blogging, scrapbooking and making videos, of course!


AsianScientist (Jun. 13, 2016) – Anyone who knows me knows I am obsessed with the musical Rent, which tells the story of a group of friends eking out a living in New York City at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Seasons of Love, the show’s signature tune, asks how one would measure a year in a life:

In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life?

Now that I have a science-obsessed almost-eight-year-old on my hands, I think I can answer that question succinctly.

The years seem to neatly bookend each new rising passion of his. Interestingly, each phase also corresponds with a different communication medium to explore his interest. So, how do you measure a year in a life? Like this:


It struck me that I was witnessing in real-time the growing digitization of my child’s science communication journey, and all the trial-and-error lessons gained along the way.

So, this post is dedicated to all parents and educators, who are helping budding young scientists, explorers, inventors and philosophers find their voice and audience. For now, I’m happy to measure each year of life according to the random science obsessions of my seven-year-old son.

Science communication tools: A Mushroom Mum review

  1. Paper-based activities = low maintenance = parental joy

    From an exhausted working parent’s point of view, nothing quite beats the quiet hum of a house where children are meaningfully engaged in sedentary activity. And when said sedentary activity isn’t them watching random YouTubers screen-capturing themselves playing Minecraft, all the better!

    In my experience, the early days of science communications in my house, where my older son Jordan was completely engrossed in pasting volcano photos in a paper scrapbook, and would literally spend two to three hours a day drawing, writing and self-publishing his own dinosaur reference books (below), were bliss.


    All Jordan needed was a generous supply of plain white paper, which he could access himself, a big container of color pencils in all shades imaginable, and a table where he could sit and write at comfortably.

    I would only come in sporadically to help with spelling or book-binding (basically, staplers and washi tape). Those were the golden days.

  2. Videos and documentaries

    Here’s where things started getting fun, occasionally tedious, and always time-consuming. I’ve broken it down to what the child can do by themselves vs. what they need parental help in.

    What child can do on own:
    – Think of topic of video.
    – Suggest story board.
    – Record own video footage (Jordan quickly learnt how to operate a basic digital camera as well as an iPhone and iPad).
    – Write script.

    What child likely needs parental help with:
    – Transferring raw footage to computer (ugh) – this may just be me, but I do not like this step. Maybe it’s because my laptop’s storage is always teetering on the brink of full capacity, and for new stuff to go in, old stuff has to come out.
    – Editing video (double ugh) – this means the parent has to learn how to use basic video production software like iMovie (in my case), and be at peace with repetitive, monotonous actions on the computer. However, when things start taking shape, the excitement factor more than makes up for the boring bits.
    – Uploading video on a platform – in our case, YouTube.

    When I was a work-from-home parent, we seemed to make more videos. But once I returned to full-time work, delivering a cleanly-edited short film in my “spare time” (HAH!) became as rare as discovering an intact Spinosaurus skeleton.

  3. Blogs

    When Jordan started blogging at Jordan’s Universe, a page hosted on our larger family site, he learnt a key communication skill: that the key to any good piece of writing is to first take the time to plan out what you want to say. He also learnt that a blog with an image, video link, or other digital content is almost always more appealing to readers than one with just plain text.

    Above all, he learnt that the process of self-publishing was easy and pretty much limitless.

    From a parent’s perspective, there are many easy-to-use drag-and-drop blogging platforms out there (we use Weebly), making blogging a low barrier-to-entry science communications tool.

  4. Google presentations

    This has become a firm favorite due to its intuitive interface. In Jordan’s words:

    “It’s not that easy when you first start out, but once you get used to it, you can do a presentation in about half an hour. It’s also easy to insert pictures, and everything I type is spell-checked.”

  5. Podcasts

    And we’ve come to the latest thing to take our house by storm: podcasts. In the last couple of weeks, we’ve become a podcast-generating family.

    What started out as a bedtime conversation in the dark about how we are all made of stardust, turned into an impromptu Q&A session, which Jordan asked me to record on my phone.

    That’s how Thursday Thoughts started, and for a time-scarce household like ours, this seems to be the ideal ‘kill-many-birds-with-one-app’ solution.

    Until 2017 comes round, that is.

This article is from a monthly column called Mushroom Mum. Click here to see the other articles in this series.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Dora Yip lives in Dunedin, New Zealand, and is mom to six-year-old Jordan and two-year-old Jonah.

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