With the beginning of the new school year approaching, teachers are busily preparing their rooms, creating seating charts, and planning the first lessons of the semester. For those of us who teach science, our year normally begins with a unit related to science process skills. These skills are useful when conducting experiments via what is commonly referred to as the scientific method.
Although professional scientists do not always use one sequential set of steps in their investigations, the methods used are generally similar. For example, despite the fact that we usually teach the scientific method as a series of steps, new information or thinking might cause a scientist to back up and repeat steps at any point during the process. Therefore, the scientific method is actually quite fluid, rather than a rigid set of sequential steps.
Generally speaking, the scientific method involves six basic steps:
1. Ask a question (or define a problem)
2. Conduct background research on the question
3. Develop a hypothesis
4. Conduct an investigation to test the hypothesis
5. Record data
6. Analyze the data, draw conclusions, and communicate the results of the experiment
An often overlooked part of these steps involves conducting background research before forming a hypothesis. When we ask students to formulate a hypothesis without knowing much of anything about the subject of the assigned investigation, we’re asking them to essentially make a guess without any basis of knowledge. Professional scientists will attempt to find out what other scientists have learned about the topic of their investigation before developing a hypothesis and designing an experiment so as not to waste time or repeat the past mistakes of others.
Communicating the results of an investigation can be accomplished in many different ways. Students can write a lab report detailing their investigation, create a PowerPoint presentation, design a poster, or even develop a podcast to share their results! To get your students started with the Scientific Method this year, try these hands on lesson plans.
Scientific Method Lesson Plans:
In this activity and worksheet students use the scientific method to design a paper airplane. They go through each of the steps of the scientific process and evaluate which paper airplane worked best.
Students learn about the scientific method and evaluate how this might help them figure out everyday problems. They do an experiment to determine how much carbon dioxide is exhaled when someone blows through a straw into calcium hydroxide.
Students try to prove or disprove real phenomena using the scientific method. They design experiments to test their hypotheses.
To review the scientific method with your students, you try one of the following worksheets:
In this worksheet students identify descriptions in an experiment as the question, hypothesis, experiment, data, or conclusion.
In this worksheet, students read about four descriptions of experiments and answer questions about the variables, controls and reliability.
In this worksheet students fill out a chart based on what part of the scientific method is being described. They rewrite an experiment to test for results.