My Scientific Method Activities
What better way to start discussing scientific method activities for your class than to conduct an experiment of my own. I wrote the following on the board:
The Scientific Method
- Make an Observation
- Ask a Question
- Do Background Research
- Construct a Hypothesis
- Test the Hypothesis with an Experiment
- Analyze the Data and Draw Conclusions
- Communicate the Results
I made an observation in my class one morning and noticed my class was extremely bored. I asked the question, “What will my students do when I teach them the Scientific Method?” I used my experience as a teacher and my colleagues for my background research. I constructed the hypothesis that 72% of the class would be bored, 18% would fall asleep, and 10% would soil themselves. I tested the hypothesis with the experiment I’m relating now. With the exception of the three kids in 4th period who were interested, my hypothesis was right on. I analyzed the data and realized I needed better activities. I now communicate my results to you.
The great thing about teaching the scientific method is that it can be applied to all subject areas and forms the foundation for inquiry and knowledge acquisition.
- Instruct students to copy the scientific method in their notebooks.
- Instruct students to write down observations about their school, their family, their society, their friends, or anything that interests them.
- Instruct students to write down questions they would like answered.
- After five minutes of brainstorming, put students in pairs. Instruct them to discuss their observations and questions.
- After a few minute discussion, instruct each pair to pair up with another pair (that makes four per group).
- Instruct each group to make a list of 5-10 questions they would like answered based on previous observations.
- Discuss some of the questions and channel students into choosing observations and questions which may provide experimentation opportunities.
- Instruct each group to choose one observation for their scientific method experiment.
- Groups should discuss background information and do research, if necessary and possible.
- Students should construct a hypothesis based on their observations and background discussion (a list of sample hypotheses and observations can be found below).
- Students should conduct an experiment to test the hypothesis.
- Students will collect data, draw a conclusion, and share their findings with the class.
Step by Step Example
- Bob observes that Benjamin is very popular with the ladies and converses with them frequently. Bob is lucky to speak with one girl per lunch period.
- Bob asks the question, “If I sat at the end table in the cafeteria (like Benjamin does) and smiles (like Benjamin does), would the ladies talk to me?”
- Bob and his group come up with the following hypothesis: If Bob sits at the end of the table in the cafeteria and smiles, girls will be more likely to talk to him.
- The group conducts an experiment. Bob sits at the end of the lunch room table and smiles at girls as they walk by. They discover that Bob converse with about 1/4 of the girls that come by–about 7. They continue the experiment and notice similar results.
- The group’s hypothesis has been proven true. Location + smiling = more girls.
Fun Ideas & Experiments
People like money.
People will stop whatever they’re doing and pick up a quarter if it’s on the ground, even if they’re in a hurry.
Glue a quarter to the ground in a semi-crowded area. Sit back and observe people’s reaction. Count how many stoop to pick up the quarter, how many make more than one effort to pick it up, how many get angry when they discover they’ve been had, and how many ignore it.
Teachers like it when their students participate in classroom discussions.
If teachers discover that students are more likely to participate if the teacher behaves in a particular manner (consciously or subconsciously), students will be able to control teacher behavior.
This requires a full class effort. Tell each student only to raise his or her hand and participate when the teacher is in a certain section of the room. Record how often the teacher goes to that section of the room during class discussion (if you have your class do this, make sure the experiment is conducted on a teacher with a sense of humor that can neither get you fired nor beat you up).
It really doesn’t matter what you wear in high school. If you’re cool, other students will follow you.
Popular kids dictate fashion trends.
Warning: handle this delicately. Find an extremely popular student in the class, the classmate known for their fashion sense works best. Instruct him or her to wear something completely out of fashion the following day, something that you or I would be poked fun of for wearing. Record peer reaction.
Teenagers love drama.
Teenagers will believe almost anything if it makes them feel like life is more exciting.
Start (harmless) rumors. Tell students to start a rumor that you’ve been fired because you said “God bless you” after someone sneezed, for example. See how fast it gets around the school (warning: I started a rumor similar to this and before the end of school I had teachers coming to my defense and an administrator telling me she would testify on my behalf).
I hope these scientific method activities helps you entertain and keep your students awake! For help on teaching kids to remember the steps of the scientific method, check out this article on memorizing the steps of the scientific method. For more background on the scientific method’s history, check out the Wikipedia article.