There are a couple of articles I have read within the last couple of months that have expanded my view to the importance of children doing hands-on science.
The first was a formal study conducted by two professors, Robert H. Tai at the University of Virginia and Adam V. Maltese of Indiana University, about what first engaged a person in science. From the experiences of 116 scientists and graduate students, they found that an interest in science began before middle school.
The second article, co-authored by Gordon Schimmel, whom I have met, and Arthur Ellis, is about creating project-based programs in museums, but the items I will quote concur with my observations.
From what I have seen in the workshops I have conducted through various programs, the interest is very high, but people really struggle with the building aspects.
Schimmel and Ellis said: "They may hold the power of the ages in their hands, but many are flat-screen junkies who are losing an understanding of the 3-D world around them.
"Sadly, this means that many children have lost what we would call ‘spatial intelligence' - the ability to use common household tools effectively, to take mechanical things apart and successfully reassemble them, to understand how things work - most of what we take for granted in our everyday world.
"Ironically, the loss is coupled with an increased need for scientists, mathematicians and engineers, at a time when fewer children grow up with an understanding about the world around them. Increasingly, our citizens lack any personal hands-on knowledge about what makes up the mechanical and technological life in the 21st century, from how airplanes fly to what makes an electric motor run."