Bubbles, craters and taters.

Our third class in this year’s Young Scientists course saw the children discussing the slime experiment from last week and then going on to measure the height of foam created when you do the dishwashing. I wanted them to understand about all the variables that can affect a result. Many scientific experiments are based on isolating and changing just one (independent) variable, while holding all the others constant, to see what happened to the dependent variable, or the thing we were measuring.

‘Soap bubbles 3’ by Keith Williamson on flickr.

I always ask the children to assess risks before they carry out experiments and to assess how the experiment went, after they have performed it. It’s interesting to hear the ideas they come up with. We are not doing any quantitative risk assessment but I am trying to get them to think about the likelihood of some of the events happening.

The children then had a go at planning an experiment for the next class. Most children chose to do an experiment investigating how much water is in a potato. See the second video in the Open University series here. (This experiment also features in online the Open University course ‘Understanding Experiments’ which is completely free and available on the Open Learn website.)

A few children wanted to investigate crater formation. I’ve linked to the Science Buddies instructions but we did a variation of this experiment last year in the Earth and Space Science course and it was popular.

I asked them to think about what they were investigating, the variables involved, their hypothesis and what materials they wanted to use.

We also started to discuss what experiments the children wanted to carry out in the second half of the course. I have allowed two full classes for trying out their experiments and I want the older children especially to take charge, rather than letting me tell them what to do.

In Class 4 we carried out the potato experiment and the craters experiment. The children enjoyed these experiments, especially when the potato burst on fire! (This had been predicted and planned for and we controlled the fire very successfully.)

What is so special about science anyway?

What do scientists do that is so special?

These articles and resources link with classes 1 and 2 of my Young Scientists course. Unlike my usual lists of resources, these are largely aimed at parents and teachers. There are many texts for reading, with a few lesson plans in there.

If anyone has any good resources that specifically deal with the scientific method and are not articles, blog posts or lesson plans, then please let me know.

1.What is science?

The Understanding Science site from the University of California at Berkeley is a great resource. Here’s their article about what science is.

I’ve used their Mystery Boxes activity a few times and still think it is a good one.

Also see their science checklist here .

2. What do scientists look like?

Let’s get rid of the awful stereotypes of mad, male, white, geeky scientists in white lab coats with glasses and crazy hair. Yes, some scientists fit the stereotype, but science is far more applicable and accessible than that. Here are some pictures of real scientists in many different fields, and information on PBS Kids about what they do in their jobs.

DragonflyTV . Real Scientists   PBS KIDS GO

There’s also a blog called Real Scientists which I’d love to recommend but I don’t think it’s particularly child friendly, unless your child doesn’t mind wading through piles of text. Maybe try looking at the tags #realscientistsofInstagram or #womeninscience on Instagram.

3. Benefits of science

Science impacts all of our lives. You can’t be a ‘science skeptic’, even if you claim not to understand science, because science, and the benefits of science are all around us. (Another page from the University of Berkeley’s Understanding Science website.)

Maybe you could play an informal game with your child where you both think of any area of life and say how science helps us in that area. For example, science helps us to play sports not only by understanding how our body works and how nutrition fuels our muscles, but also by understanding the psychology of visualisation.

Football iu_1996 by Rdikeman at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

4. The scientific method

Science Buddies have an overview with resources and free printable poster. (The image below just shows a section of the poster.)

scientific method poster.pdf

I also liked this explanation by Alina Bradford on livescience.com.

“Science is a systematic and logical approach to discovering how things in the universe work. It is also the body of knowledge accumulated through the discoveries about all the things in the universe.”

– See more at: http://www.livescience.com/20896-science-scientific-method.html#sthash.0mipGXTO.dpuf

How to Make your Science Project Scientific.” This book was great last year for teaching my 10 year old about the scientific method, although it is very wordy with few diagrams or pictures.

5. Asking questions

Read this article from The Guardian (Jan 2014).

6. Quantitative vs qualitative observations

There’s a good lesson here on Teachers pay Teachers.

This cartoon video is a bit annoying but does emphasise the difference between quantitative and qualitative measurements

7. Forming hypotheses

The science kids at home website has a clear and simple explanation of hypotheses.

Here is an activity linked to the ‘Dinosaur Train’ TV program, for younger children, but with adaptation or extension ideas for older children.

Note that the hypothesis formed must be testable and falsifiable. In my classes I ask the children to predict not only what will happen if their hypothesis is correct, but what will happen if their hypothesis is incorrect.


What do you think?

Were these links helpful? I’d love to know what you use to help your primary children understand the scientific method.