This fun scientific method interactive activity will help students understand why and how scientists use the scientific method. Tell students that they will be building bridges out of spaghetti, and that they will use the scientific method to figure out which construction methods and materials work the best. At this point, students should have already been introduced to the scientific method, and you should have the steps written on the board or on a bulletin board.
Have each group work together to come up with a question that they want to test. Most of them will probably decide on some variation of “Which connecting materials will build the strongest spaghetti bridge?” or “Which building method will build the strongest spaghetti bridge?”
This is one of the steps of the scientific method that many students seem to overlook. To give students a basic idea of how research can help them design an experiment, show them plenty of pictures of real bridges. Encourage them to analyze the different structures of the bridges in their groups, and to think about how the research might apply to spaghetti bridges.
At this point, groups of students should come up with a hypothesis, such as “Taping the spaghetti bridge together will be more effective than gluing it”, or “A bridge with triangular shapes in it will be stronger than one with rectangular shapes.” Encourage groups to decide on what they think will be the best hypothesis.
This is the step of the scientific method that your students have probably been itching to complete. Let the groups loose to test their hypotheses. You’ll want to make sure beforehand that they have identified their dependent and independent variable, and that they are trying to keep all other possible variables exactly the same. You’ll need to supply them with plenty of raw spaghetti, glue, tape, and clay, as well as two desks for each group to build a bridge across. They may also need objects to act as weights on top of the bridge, such as steel nails.
Data and Results
Students should have collected their data during the previous step of the scientific process, but it is in this step that they decide how to display it. They may decide to use a chart, a line graph, or an illustration to explain the results of their experiment. They also want to evaluate their hypothesis during this step, deciding whether it was correct or incorrect.
In a typical scientific paper (such as one that accompanies a science fair project), the discussion is a way to share the results, as well as other ideas that came out of the experiement, with others. In this scientific method interactive activity, the discussion can take place orally instead. Groups should talk first among themselves to figure out what their results showed, how they could have improved the experiment, and what experiment they could do next to build on these results. Then, each group can share their final thoughts with the rest of the class.