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April 18, 2022

Episode 43: Is Your Child a Mad Scientist? Would You Like Them to Be? with Stephanie Ryan

Do you think a 2 or 3 year old is too young for science? Actually, they aren’t! In this episode, DJ talks with Dr. Stephanie Ryan, who specializes in understanding how children learn different topics, especially math and science. Stephanie explains that children as young as two and three are ready to begin learning the skills that will give them a head start in understanding how to learn STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics). STEM is a teaching philosophy that integrates all four disciplines together into a single, cross-disciplinary program which empowers students to thrive as well as increase problem-solving and technology skills.

If we approach science with a fun attitude, we give our children an outlook that will help them solve many of the problems and the challenges of our world. 

Dr. Stephanie Ryan, Ph.D. is a chemist, a boy mom, and a social media influencer who enjoys using her background to create educational products and content. Although an academic at heart, Stephanie is passionate about learning through play. She can be found helping young kids explore the fascinating world around them. Over the years, she has taught science to all age groups, both in and out of the classroom, helping toddlers learn about their world and college students define theirs. 

• [3:40] “I've always been really interested in this intersection of math and science. And once I became a parent, I started to get really interested in it at the level of small children as well.”
• [8:47] Dr. Ryan explains that it is ok to not know everything and to look things up with your child so you can learn together. 
• [10:56] “If you know they're wrong, give them an experience to help them get it right later…”
• [28:11] Stephanie explains that if your child is obsessed with one thing like bears for instance, that there are all types of activities, content & sequencing you can teach them around the subject of bears…

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Stephanie Ryan
For great learning activities in the sciences, book recommendations, and more, follow Dr. Stephanie on Instagram at Instagram:


DJ Stutz  0:13  
You're listening to Episode 43 of the Imperfect Heroes, Insights Into Parenting, the perfect podcast for imperfect parents looking to find joy in their experience of raising children in an imperfect world. I'm your host, DJ Stutz. Sometimes I hear my child is only three. They're too young for science. Is that true? Actually, it isn't. In this episode, you're going to hear from Dr. Stephanie Ryan, who specializes in understanding how children learn different topics, especially math and science. Stephanie does a wonderful job of explaining that children as young as two and three are ready to begin learning the skills that will give them a head start in understanding how to learn stem. So that is science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. And here's the kicker, you and your child will have so much fun and build your relationship while you're doing it. There's so much to learn. So let's get started.

I remember when I was raising my kids, they loved going outside and finding whatever they could find. And they would come home with garden snakes, lizards, all kinds of bugs. And once we moved to Las Vegas, they would go out and play, we lived in an area that was newly developed. And so there was a lot of desert around us. And they came home more than once, with a box of little scorpions inside. And that was exciting. But we wound up keeping the box out on the porch, and they would watch them for a few days. And then I'd go and release them in the wild. Fast forward about 20 years. And as a grandmother, I have watched my daughter go out with her kids looking for critters. And not only did this build lasting memories, but it opened the door to curiosity, and the world of science. Stephanie Ryan has always been interested in science, specifically chemistry and how people come to understand it. And she was so interested in that she actually worked to get her PhD in it. Stephanie became a mom for the first time just a few years ago. And her focus became that of how our very earliest learners learn. She has so many great ideas. There were things that I haven't even thought of. And I have a lot of great ideas. We had a great conversation. Stephanie is so happy and positive. I love talking with her. Let's listen in. I'm joined today with Stephanie Ryan, who is one of my imperfect heroes. And we're going to be talking today about teaching stem. So I'll let her talk to you about what that actually means. And teaching that to our youngest kids and getting them excited about that at an early age. So Stephanie, why don't you give us a little info on who you are and what you do.

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  3:16  
Hi. So I'm Stephanie Ryan, I have a PhD in the learning sciences, which is kind of a fancy way of saying how do people learn different topics. And I focused on chemistry, because I love chemistry. And I did my work on how kids learn math and science a little differently, even though they have similar concepts that were applying in different ways. So I've always been really interested in this intersection of math and science. And once I became a parent, I started to get really interested in it at the level of small children as well. So not just school aged kids, but your two year old, your three year old and thinking of these patterns and things that they can pick up early, and how that could help them down the road. So I'm an author. I've written a children's book for kids, let's learn about chemistry. And I'm I guess you call a stem influencer on Instagram and Tiktok, where I share activities with parents and their kids. And sometimes I do interviews with experts that get really fun. I asked questions that students submitted. So their child's submitted, like my son asked an astronaut what he puts in his backpack when he goes outside of the aircraft. And I asked them exactly how the child does. So they're really fun. So that's kind of what I've been doing lately. In my day job. I'm a curriculum and assessment developer.

DJ Stutz  4:42  
So I'd love to hear you talk about how we can introduce this into our youngest kids. And so it's not quite as daunting as it sometimes is to kids and adults.

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  4:55  
The way you just phrase that from adults, that chemistry In biology and things like that, or even math, math is a big one. Adults are like, Oh, that was a bad subject or Oh, I hated that. And they have this. It's almost like a pest phobia. They just won't go near it because of the experience they had. And I know when I was in school, we memorized everything. And it was, you know, which element does what in chemistry and you got your A, and I was really good at that. But I had no idea how the world around me worked. Not at all, I can't explain anything I can tell. At that point in time. I couldn't tell you anything at all. And I couldn't explain things at the conceptual level. And I remember getting into college, and they started doing things at the conceptual level more like, Well, why does this do this? What are the molecules doing? Like what? PV equals nRT? That's kind of how it fell over. I couldn't tell you what you wanted in the book, but I couldn't explain things. So that's something that I really try to think about, especially with the way the NGSS standards are structured. So people who

DJ Stutz  6:04  
are parents who are parents who might not know what that is,

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  6:07  
absolutely, the Next Generation Science Standards and their standards that they're not universally adopted, lot of states have chosen to pick and choose the ones they like, some have adopted them as is. But what they do is they approach a phenomenon says something that's happening in the world, and you explain it. And it's a very different way of learning. And in going through those of helping write these things, I've actually still learned a lot because they're things that I just had an equation for, and it blows my mind that things that you can explain, if you think about them at this different way, instead of just looking at an equation, because in all honesty, does the equation matter? When you're trying to solve a problem in your home? Does the equation matter? No, it does. It's though, whether you understand is this going to freeze, things like that. So that is kind of where I started to get the idea that in the NGSS standards, they have skills as well. And that's something we didn't really touch upon when I was a student these skills of what does it mean to be a scientist? Do you look for patterns, those are concepts you're looking for. And I can teach patterns to a two year old, my son would sit and sort by color. And those are skills you can do very early on pattern making. One that I really like to teach because of the way the world is with bad resources of where people make claims based on not real evidence. It's something I really like to highlight as well as, as long as your child can say, I think this because of this, that's good enough at 234, like getting them to think of that instead of just saying, well, because I think so that's not as helpful. So we can do a lot with what we've got at home. And so I just really like to share that with parents, the things they could do at their home to get these skills going.

DJ Stutz  8:09  
Well, and I think too, it's important to get them start in academic thinking, getting them ready to ask questions, and to wonder, and all of that. And so that's one piece that's really important. But this stuff is fun, and the kids can love it, they're going to have a great time with it. And so that's another piece of it. And then the third piece is I see is, when you're doing this stuff with your kids, you're really building your relationship with them. Look how smart you are, I can't believe you figured that out. And so you and so it really encompasses a lot of things

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  8:47  
and learning with them. So showing them that you can make a mistake, or that you didn't know something, let's look this up together, or even just building their confidence in saying their idea. Because a lot of kids with the way some parents are they'll kind of be the authority and the child is a little afraid to ask or to say no, well, I just agree with you. I think this and so building that kind of attitude and your child, not attitude in a bad way, but just like their own self confidence in what they're saying that they're able to say, I don't know, I really disagree with you because of this. And that's good, that's healthy. And so I totally agree in the relationship building but also in your self confidence building.

DJ Stutz  9:32  
And you brought up something too, that made me think that sometimes even though you know the answer, it's worthwhile to say let's look that up. Or let's go find it. And so then you're showing them how to find an answer and not just listen to someone who is a supposedly authority and saying, oh, we need to do this or I love this newest phrase the science is changed. Science doesn't change our understanding of it change His interpretation of it might change. But the science itself is a standard. And it's just we're learning more about it. And so I love the idea of, of teaching kids where to go and how to look things up and, and find out things without relying on someone else.

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  10:21  
Well, and the adults need to do that as well. But we learn our whole life. And it's not just you get my son laughs me. So when I get to college, I'm done. And it's like, no, thank you still alive the rest of your life, like I'm learning right now. So I think that's really important. But it's also important to not tell them the answer, because that can shoot them down. They'll think, oh, that di had that I never got to verbalize was so wrong. I'm just afraid to ever talk about it. And then building a model in their head with what you've said, versus what they have actually experienced is different. So if you know they're wrong, give them an experience to help them get it right later, they'll build that on their own it example I like to use for parents is that over the pandemic, we had a lot of free time on our hands at home. We wanted to make popsicles and my son suggested that we put the liquid in the oven. And I was like, No, in my head. He was three. And I was like, I don't think then I stopped myself. And I said, Well, let's get an ice cube tray. And let's try it. And so we tried it. And he was like, Well, that didn't work. And I didn't say yeah, you're wrong. I said, Okay, what can we try now? And he's like, Okay, let's try to put it outside. No, that didn't work. And then we finally got to the freezer. And by doing that he was able to build it on his own by continually changing the model. He had him his head, not just mommy said this. And it helped him later because one day it was raining, and it started to sleep. And my son said, Oh, that liquid water just turned solid, because it was cold. And I was like, I've never said that to you in my entire life. And you just warmed my heart. That is what came out of your mouth. But it's it's great. And so just like when you tell your child to stay away from plugs and things like that, it takes a lot of you telling them something, and it may take them several practices of where they get it wrong, but they'll eventually get there, you'll reap the benefits of it. It's just like walking. When kids learn how to walk. You don't say, oh, no, you didn't straighten your leg out right there. You didn't you toggle instead of whacked. You don't shut them down. You're like, oh, look, you did great. And so we just need to kind of pull that in a little better when we're teaching our

DJ Stutz  12:46  
kids. And it's funny how really that works for all kinds of things that works for social emotional growth. It works for trying new things physically, in improving your gross motor skills, and your fine motor skills in really, this kind of application goes everywhere. I totally agree. Yeah. And so it's pretty exciting. So let's talk about maybe some of the earliest things that you can do. I know you mentioned sorting. And that's a great thing that even a one year old can start thinking about sorting things, all the red ones, which ones are red, because they're starting to learn colors, colors, or science. And as they can sort them by that I think those are some probably the earliest things that you can do with your kids. Where do you go from there do you think?

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  13:36  
I think you just keep practicing those things with different ideas. So an example if you can't see I was playing with a piece of macaroni that we had just done. They were painted at different colors. And we did a B patterns with it and made necklaces. That is also a great fine motor, but it's also this recognizing a pattern. And once your kid can start to do that, really well put patterns on the table and remove one and say which one's missing, or have them predict the next five. So go outside of the patterns so that they have to break it think ahead. And then you can also think in terms of a recipe. So I created one on my Instagram, I ended up turning your cookies more into a cake because I had to use too many eggs, but it was still as good everyone ate it. But what we did was we set up the recipe that every AQ used, you also had to use this amount of butter, this amount of sugar, this amount of code, so that it had to and then we had to stop when we couldn't do a full cycle of them to figure out which ingredient was limiting our recipe which that is a chemistry concept in high school, the limiting reagent of a reaction and that's something that I think if we get these just recognizing the pattern and the basics like that in different ways around us, I think that just that really helps build that in them. So sometimes we'll be trying to think of an example my son says this all the time, you'd be like, it's kind of like a pattern. I did it, then you did it, and I did it, then you did it. And it's just like, yeah, that is a pattern good. But it's not in a incorrect way you because he's been doing these necklaces. You know, I don't think it's necessarily a thing that this next one has to be more complicated. It's just reiterating it. And I am amazed to how many times you can do the same activity with the same child and they still love it. You could keep doing it over and over and over.

DJ Stutz  15:42  
Yeah, well, and because they become more confident as they're able, but you do it over and over, they start knowing what comes next. And what comes this and, and then before, you know what they're able to start doing things actually on their own, you're supervising, but they're remembering. And there's a lot of self confidence that comes with that. A lot of feeling of accomplishment.

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  16:02  
Definitely, we have another pattern, one that we do it's part phase, where we make a yogurt, parfait snack, but we start with whatever ingredients we have, and we give them letters, we make a pattern, and then we repeat the pattern. And just like you said, the confidence building, we have done this so many times that my son actually knows how many bowls to get out. He writes the letters now. And he's like, I know what I need to do. And like he's really excited about it. And then he'll be like, Oh, no, I can't do another one. Because I don't have enough pecans or whatever he chose. And it's hard to describe as a parent, like seeing him do that. I'm really proud of them. And but it's such a silly thing to

DJ Stutz  16:45  
know, that's not a silly thing to be proud of. That's something amazing. So I have to ask how old is your son? He is five. So here we are right there at that age. And so he was even in preschool age. He's making these connections, correct?

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  17:02  
Yeah, he is in pre K right now. Yep. And we started doing these. I mean, as a scientist and my husband like science, and we all like science around here. So he was exposed to more than just that. So we can definitely say that. When he was younger, he got it. But I actually took over his teaching when we were in the pandemic. So I definitely did more with him then.

DJ Stutz  17:26  
Yeah, that was pandemic was kind of a two edged sword wasn't it?

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  17:30  
Was and it was so sweet. Because he would wake up in the morning and go, Mommy, can we do science? I was like, I love it. But I'm also really tired. We do a lot of science. So I ended up coming up with this idea, because I was thinking of the things he was missing in pre K. So I know when I was in pre K, we had costumes that we could try on and pretend to play. And I hate pretending personally as an adult. I used to when I was a kid, but I feel like I've never right when I do it. He always tells me No mommy thing. Yeah, no, but he'll be like, no bunny, isn't there bunnies over there. And I'm like, what, it's an invisible bunny. So I didn't do that. And I was like, He's missing all this time, pretend play. And he's a very serious kid. And I thought I don't want to mess this up. So I got a bunch of costumes. And we came up with a jobs theme of a science experiment books, you can do teach your pre teacher resources for cutting and pasting, to get those fine motor skills. And we would also talk with an expert every week, so kind of that field trip experience that we were missing. And I found that parents really liked it. And I was like, well, let's keep doing this because I need it to survive, because I cannot do science experiments every day all the time.

DJ Stutz  18:54  
Exactly. So where did you find your experts? How did you connect with them

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  18:58  
through personal connections. So for example, my friend, her uncle is an astronaut who is in space. And I just happen to know and because he knew I was friends with her, he granted the interview. But I find that most adults love talking about what they do with five year olds. And the interviews can be really great. Like we got to speak with a forensic scientist, and he taught kids how to figure out what was in their fingerprint with a balloon. You put your fingerprint on a balloon with ink and you blow it up. And you can see it very large and determine whether you have a loop a world or an arch.

DJ Stutz  19:38  
Oh man, I'm so doing that with my kids. It's super

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  19:41  
fun. I do have the activity. If you want to take a look at it. It was really easy. And then we actually graphed them to see the frequencies like who had arches who had this to show that to also get it the graphics and so and then with that we had some books that were really good resource says and so it's it was more of this, if you are also stuck at home right now, or if you're homeschooling or if you just really sometimes Charlie key loved firefighters for a while. And he's like, can we learn more about firefighters? And I'm like, Sure, give me a week, I need a week to pull these resources together. I think that goes for Amazon. And I pulled stuff together, and I failed in front of people. And I think that helps them. So we made a fire extinguisher with baking soda and vinegar when we talked about putting fires out. And I put way too much baking soda in it like exploded all over, and the video child laughing at me it's. And so I share that with parents. And I'm like, embrace the mess, say, Hey, I made a mistake, because adults make mistakes. That's true.

DJ Stutz  20:53  
And another thing too is, I'm just outside of Denver, Colorado. And I teach just south of Denver. And so this year, we were able to bring back costumes for the kids to engage in, during preschool, the year before that, what preschool we were able to have, that was all gone. That was all taken away. And so a lot of those key elements of what enables us to have that emotional education and the curiosity and all of that was just taken away from us as preschool teachers. And so we were trying to figure that out. I think, depending on where you live, some of those restrictions might still be in place. And if they are, you kind of need to say, okay, how am I going to allow my child to have this really important activity? You know what I mean?

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  21:50  
Yeah. And it was something I was struggling with, because at first we thought, Oh, this is just going to be two weeks, whatever, we're gonna get through the two weeks, it's gonna be fine. And then two became two months. And then two months was like until the vaccine, and it just, it kept going on and on. And I was like, Okay, now he's really not. I mean, he's an old family. So he was missing out on that. But we would FaceTime his friends, he got to see his grandparents, we were in a pod. So he got socializing in that way. And he became very kind, like, he'll try to hold your hand if you go up the stairs, because he thinks you need help and things like that. So he was also around older people. So he picked up some funny Satan's. But in terms of that, pretending and it was just I didn't know what to do with it. So I just started researching it as a parent, because I am not a preschool teacher. That's not my background. And I came to the conclusion that instead of buying some toys, I was going to buy costumes, because that just was what he needed right then. And I asked my neighbors, actually, because my neighbors also had kids years and years ago, and they're now in high school. And they were like, you know, we're actually cleaning out I bet Charlie would love these. And they gave us like seven more. If you ask people have stuff, or if you're doing an activity where you're melting Kranz, everybody has those junk crayons, like they're just stubs they have those just I don't know why we keep them, but we do. And if you just ask your neighbors, sometimes they have stuff like that. But yeah, it's definitely something I wish every parent had the resources to be able to check out the costumes or something, because they were very important to his developmental growth that I never would have guessed, because that's just I didn't know.

DJ Stutz  23:39  
Right? Well, I know one of the things that I've done. And again, so I mean, the library system here. And I don't know, but I imagine most libraries would have something similar. You can go on their website. And there's usually a place it's like other items or something, you can find toys that you can check out. So I've checked out for my classroom, the robot dash, and you use an iPad, to control them and tell them where to go. And the kids are having fun with that. I've checked out a programmable Caterpillar thing. And so you push buttons on the caterpillar, and then that changes the direction it's going to go. And so there's a ton of different toy things that if you can't afford those things, check out your library, because they might just have stuff like that that you can check out.

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  24:34  
That's a great idea. And when I'm finished with that age group, I might donate them to my library. I hadn't even considered that. I hadn't heard of toy libraries. But I've never lived in the community that them. Yeah, so that's very Yeah, I think that's great.

DJ Stutz  24:51  
Yeah, if you can't find it on their website, you could probably just go to the library and ask the main to ask the librarian about it. Like do you have other things that you can check out? out. It's got a lot of stuff. It's amazing. I was I was shocked at all the stuff that you could check out. So

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  25:08  
I used to live in Chicago and they had a museum pass, you could check out if you were a resident, which I thought that was a really cool one. Yeah, no

DJ Stutz  25:16  
kidding. Yeah, those are expensive to get into. And now you've brought up another thing is I think those field trips are amazing to go to so, you know, going to the museum and finding a children's museum and my youngest daughter lives in Lubbock, Texas. What's there, right, and they literally had on their list of things to do. And Lubbock is a groundhog community that you could go and watch. It was really boring. But

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  25:48  
my five year old would have loved it. Yeah.

DJ Stutz  25:51  
Can't run around with them, though. Yeah, the distance, but they had this museum. And I thought, oh, museum, okay, well, we'll take our grandson there. She has his son. And it was the most amazing kids museum. So hands on, and he was into the trains. And we didn't even get to third of it, because he was so engaged in stuff. So when you look for things like that, and opportunities, and maybe there's an aquarium, if you don't have an aquarium, maybe you have a Cabela's.

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  26:20  
Yeah. And I think it's important as a parent, to not put your own expectations of how you think they're going to act, they're on to them, and just let them be and me as long as they're behaving, but if they're not going to interact with it in the way you thought they would, that's okay. Because like I remember we went to Paris, we used to live abroad, and we had taken our son to Paris. And we took him to the aquarium there. And he was obsessed with the stairs, the stairs, because we lived in an apartment building with an elevator. And we lived high enough up that we never took stairs. And those were the first stairs he had ever seen. And he was just like, stairs, and he sat and just crawled up and down them for hours. And then the next day he goes, Can we see fish and we were like, again. So we went to the same aquarium again the next day. And then he did it. And then he wanted to go again. And it was like I thought we would do all these other things. But he loved this. Like he'd stick his hand in the fish because they had an interactive area to where they would kind of like come up, bumpy. And he'd be like, Ooh, you know, and it was like, that was the way she wanted to experience it. And it was very different than mine. But we all had a better time by him not having a breakdown because he hated it. So that's something I tried to keep in mind is I don't play into many things. I let him experience it the way and I just always have backup plans.

DJ Stutz  27:49  
For sure. But that's so cool. You got that experience in Paris. That's amazing. And I think you're right, so let's say you take them to the zoo. And really all they want to do is watch the bears. That's okay. It's okay. If you never got to the lions or the elephants. It's okay. And let them see. I see a lot of parents, okay, let's move, let's move. Let's go.

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  28:11  
Yeah, and just let them experience. And then let's say your kid gets obsessed with bears for a while because kids do get really obsessed about something at some stage. And you can actually teach so much content to your child using something they love. So you could teach them about the lifecycle. You could teach them about biomes you could do on Teachers Pay Teachers, I'm certain there is an alphabet activity about bears, or like a cut and paste activity of sequencing. So you can get all these things using bears, or whatever it was they were interested in, and really go to that interest they have. And then they're so excited to do it. Instead of Oh, great. I have to practice writing again, which was something I was struggling with during the pandemic, my son would not practice this letters with me. And it was the way I was approaching it was like sit down and let's do it. Or this was like, Hey, I have this packet. And it's about bears or whatever it was, you know, and it's like he all Yea he would be so excited. Instead of Oh, great. He didn't realize he was learning because I made it fun.

DJ Stutz  29:17  
And that's the secret to any grade teacher. Any decent teacher is seeing what the kids are interested in and then rolling with that and then including the things that you're trying to teach them within that you brought up a great resource Teachers Pay Teachers, literally that WWW dot teachers pay teacher's dot com, and it is full teachers all know about this, but it's also available to parents. There's a lot of free stuff that's out there. And then there's stuff that you know, three bucks, five bucks, whatever. And you can download all this stuff that teachers have put together for basically Any theme, and at any grade. So I've used the kindergarten one when I was teaching kindergarten. And even for some of my more advanced kids in the pre K, I can still use kindergarten things. And then they have preschool age stuff, too, that you can do.

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  30:16  
Yeah, they're wonderful. And a lot of teachers have actually made for specific books. So if your classroom does feedings by a specific author or a specific book, so there's a lot of hungry caterpillar things and beamed things, but I don't think a lot of parents know about Teachers Pay Teachers, and I always try to find just free ones to share so that parents who are feeling oh, gosh, what do I do, and I don't wanna spend a lot of money. So try to find those resources. But just like everything out there, not everything is really high quality. Sometimes there's not. So I like to show books are really good for this or which activities would I recommend? And I think people need guidance like that, if they're just diving in for the first time.

DJ Stutz  31:00  
I totally agree. And I think that there's just so many options to go with, you can Google stuff. There's tons of stuff on YouTube about different things. So in my classroom, right now, we're learning about the ocean. And we were reading a book to large group activity. And it talked about the whales singing. And the kids were like whale singing what you know. And so then we went to YouTube. And we were able to find stuff about what that sounded like. So while we were eating snack today, we had that in the background. And it was really cute watching the kids trying to match what the whales were saying, and that

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  31:41  
is awesome. Yeah, and one of the really cool things about living in the time we live in, is how accessible experts are. So you could tweet, top OSHA knowledge, just who just works with a specific group of whales. And you could have your kids ask a question in it, and you could tweet them, and they would answer you, because you can share information in this way now. And it's something that I think people think scientists are this unreachable group, that they're not really approachable. But scientists love to share their work, love it. And it's even a good exercise for them to be able to share it to children, because it makes it more accessible to the public. So I think that's great. Do ask your kids, what's the question you'd ask and then just send them their way, it would make them feel wonderful.

DJ Stutz  32:34  
That feeds right back into your Ask an Expert thing. And so maybe you don't know an astronaut, but you can find an account, and you can Tweet them or message them or whatever. And you will very often get that answer back.

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  32:50  
Yeah, that's just something that I never thought to do, until I was looking for articles one time, and sometimes I'll message the scientist because I don't have access to an article. And I'll be like, Hey, do you happen to have a copy? And they'll message me back with results and things kind of like a workaround shortcut to not do email, or call them? Because that is something that pops up. They're like, Oh, I'll do that right now. You know?

DJ Stutz  33:17  
Well, I think to when they hear that it's for kids, they get excited about it. And that's with a lot of things like police officers and firefighters. And there's so much science that goes into that kind of work as well, even a car mechanic or someone who does some of those other jobs that affect our every day. And it's great to have some of them come and talk to you about that dentists are always excited to talk to kids. And there's some great sites where they can get information on dentistry and stuff. I actually have an episode named life is better with teeth. ORTHODONTIST Come on, and he talked about when do you start with brushing, and how does all that work and also woven, some really great parenting advice. There's a lot of places to get information on just about every,

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  34:03  
especially locally. So when I first started, I just reached out to my local departments. So the fire department in my area actually had I believe they received a grant or there was some something they were working on. And they have a whole educational series, but parents can watch that are like five minutes videos, and it's for kids. And so it's the local fireman. And he explains parts of the trucker when to call 911. And why stop, drop and roll isn't what they teach anymore. And like things like that. And it was really cool. He goes, Hey, I'll even make a pitch that directs them to your website. I'll be like, Hi, I'm from the fire department, but I'm working with let's learn about science. Here's where we find all of our resources. And it was like they made it and texted it to me. So there are lots of things. Yeah, that is it doesn't hurt to ask is never my philosophy. Yeah,

DJ Stutz  34:57  
what's the worst thing that could happen? That you don't hear about? Back, they're not going to curse you out for asking.

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  35:02  
No, yeah. And it's good for their image, if they help, especially if you're your kids class, or even just for your kid, a lot of places will give you a tour, not in COVID times. But we used to visit our fire station up the road all the time, we would have a leftover pizza pizza party, and we bring it to them, you know, and they look at you on a tour, and then they give us last to cat.

DJ Stutz  35:24  
Yeah, they're really open to that. And again, it depends on what part of the country you're in right now. Some areas are more open than others right now. And so you know, it's worth maybe giving a call and saying, Hey, what are your restrictions right now? What do you have that we could learn and do right now? And they'll be more than happy to talk to you about that, you know, our children's museum is open right now, in Denver? I know, some are not but so just check and see.

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  35:51  
Yeah, and the Children's Museum, it's one of the things we found, we have a really wonderful one in Indianapolis, and they have a membership pass for families, that it actually is the same cost as you all visiting that one day. It depends how many people are in your family, but it can work out that way. And then you've got a whole year that you can just go and it was part of the past.

DJ Stutz  36:16  
Yeah. And there's a lot of places that do that, too. Like our museum of natural history has that and our zoo has that. So just really look and see what is the most interesting to your child right now. And just go with it. I don't care if it's cars, or if it's airplanes or if it's princesses. And let them see maybe pictures of some real princesses that are there right now? Because there are some and think about what they do and where they live. And

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  36:49  
yeah, and how that's portrayed and books and movies. That's not at all what a princess does. I think the only one that comes close to

DJ Stutz  36:59  
have died. Yeah. The most dangerous thing you can be as a parent in a Disney movie, because they

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  37:09  
I had to teach about the great beyond a little bit earlier than we thought because of Disney. Thank you Disney.

DJ Stutz  37:16  
Yeah. So some things to think in mind when you think of Disney. But so yeah, there's just so many great things to be excited about. And I love what you're doing. So if people want to find out more, or get in touch with what you're doing and what you have to offer, where do they go.

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  37:34  
So my book, let's learn about chemistry is on Amazon, if you like to shop there, or your local bookstore can order it if you like it locally, and you can ask your library to order it if you would like it in that way. I do offer discounts and virtual readings for schools. So if you want your kids school you to have that we could reach out and talk. And my website is let's learn about And that's my handle on all of the social medias, I respond, if you message me on Instagram, that's probably the best place or tick tock.

DJ Stutz  38:08  
And then we're gonna have all of that information in our show notes. So if you didn't happen to have a pen or paper available immediately, you can always just scroll down to the show notes. And we're gonna have all of that information with the links, right there. And so it'll be easy peasy. Stephanie, I always ask my guests the same question. So I'm going to ask you, how would you define a successful parent?

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  38:36  
Question, because I think as parents, we're all literally doing the best we can. And sometimes even when you do the best you can, there are things outside of your control that happened. So it's hard to say something that's tried and true. I think it's just the training component of doing your best, like doing something with your kids best interest at heart so that your decisions kind of go toward that, I think is how I would define that.

DJ Stutz  39:05  
No, that's perfect. And I love that when you make your decisions based on is this the right thing for my child? That's a great place to be, isn't it?

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  39:14  
Yeah. And that will help you advocate for them if they need it. Like if there's something that's missing at school, you'll notice that and you'll feel like well, that's not the best for my child. This is how I shall abdicate. And then you're doing the best you can. At least that was in the background.

DJ Stutz  39:31  
Yes. And I think there are parents who have maybe had a better example growing up of how to be a good parent. And then some people have had really not so good examples growing up and so there's some people have more of an advantage than other in knowing what to do and knowing what to expect and and what's right for my child at this time. But I think it's websites like yours and mine and listening to podcast. Since there's just so much more of information available, then like when I was raising my kids, the Internet was there, but it really wasn't used the way it is. Now we're doing the AOL dial up stuff on it took forever. And while you're waiting for it, you're yelling at your kids to leave you alone. I'm looking up how to be a good parent, you know?

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  40:20  
Yeah, totally. I definitely agree with that the and I think that I would add to that, then the openness to learn more about what you're doing, because being set in a way doesn't always help anybody. And

DJ Stutz  40:34  
you're exactly right. You're exactly right. And we're learning new things all the time. We're learning new things about how the brain works, about how the brain develops, and what are some of those key things that we can do. We're learning more about how to assist the brain in that development phase. So think we're often having more ability to do what our kids need.

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  40:58  
I am really excited to see what the kids coming out of all these new learnings that we have, what they're gonna do, because they're going to be amazing. They've got the world at their fingertips, they have YouTube to teach them anything they want. And they have the emotional capacity to do other things, and they can explain the world around them. What more could you ask for?

DJ Stutz  41:23  
Exactly. Well, Stephanie Ryan, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us and share just the wonderful things that you've got going on. And this great information for parents. I think it's really key.

Dr. Stephanie Ryan  41:38  
You so much for having me.

DJ Stutz  41:39  
Yeah, we'll talk to you again soon. I enjoyed talking with Stephanie, so much that I actually lost track of time, she had so many great ideas. And like I said, there were a few that I've never considered, and I'm so excited to try some of them with my grandkids this summer. I think the big takeaway is that science is fun. And if we approach it with that attitude, we give our children an outlook that will help them solve many of the problems and the challenges of our world. And as our society moves forward with technology, we are going to need all kinds of scientists to help make that technology meaningful in our lives. Stephanie's information is in our show notes. So I hope you'll go down and check it out. And while you're there, go ahead and leave a rating and review. Taking the time to give the podcast a five star rating and a review makes the podcast easier to find. And we are then able to help more families. Have you hit the Follow button yet? Make sure you are following the podcast so you don't miss anything. And the follows along with the ratings and reviews, help other people find us. Are you up to date on all things Imperfect Heroes? Register for my free newsletter at and never miss a beat. Hey, be part of my Instagram family. Follow me at Imperfect Heroes podcast. You will get helpful hints and tips and information on upcoming episodes. And I even pop in and do a live every once in a while. I'll be looking for you. Next week. I have Dawn Barkley who is a travel specialist and as a new book out on traveling with neurodivergent children and while she has some great ideas for traveling with children who have autism, anxiety or sensory issues. Her advice is great for our typical kiddos as well. So check in next week and see what I mean. And until next time, let's find joy in parenting.

Transcribed by

Stephanie RyanProfile Photo

Stephanie Ryan

Science Education Specialist/Author/ Mom

Dr. Stephanie Ryan, Ph.D. is a chemist, a boy mom, and a social media influencer who enjoys using her background to create educational products and content.

Although an academic at heart, Dr. Stephanie is passionate about learning through play. She can be found helping young kids explore the fascinating world around them.

Over the years, Dr. Stephanie has taught science to all age groups, both in and out of the classroom, helping toddlers learn about their world and college students define theirs.

Dr. Stephanie earned her Ph.D. in the Learning Sciences and her M.S. in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She earned her B.S. in Chemistry from Saint Mary’s College.

For great learning activities in the sciences, book recommendations, and more, follow Dr. Stephanie on Instagram at @letslearnaboutscience.