More resources for Young Scientists

These resources link in with our Young Scientists course, particularly activities and concepts we covered in the second half of the course.

original-260479-1Planning your own experiments or investigations

There’s a free project planner from ‘Upper Grades are Awesome’ on TpT which helps groups of children to plan their science fair project. It’s free to join TpT and although I don’t use it all the time there are often some good downloadables to be found.

 

 

testtubesThe Social Side of Science

The Understanding Science website from the University of Berkeley has a good few pages debunking the myth of the solitary scientist. It is critical that all scientists do not just carry out their experiments but they also communicate with each other at every step of the way.

Being skeptical.

I really hope that the children who come to my classes go home with an excitement about how wonderful science can be. I also hope that they learn to be skeptical. Have you noticed how each decade has its own health fads that seem ‘too good to be true?’ They probably are. What about medications that are trumpeted to ‘hit pain where it hurts’ and so on. How much of that is marketing and how much is really backed up by science?
sciencechecklist

The Understanding Science website (again) has a good checklist for children to use to see if a study is really scientific. There are several pages where they apply this checklist to actual investigations like solving DNA’s double helix, investigating CFCs in the atmosphere and  and claims of nuclear fusion at room temperature (cold fusion).

 

 

The Real Process of Science   UC Davis Bodega Marine LaboratoryBeing prepared for science to take a long time

In the UCDavis CAMEOS project, children use the science flowchart I’ve mentioned before (and provided for children in my classes) to map the activities that take part during a scientific investigation. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and see how different scientists mapped their own journeys.

Being prepared to be wrong

This article by the astronomist Bruce Weaver is probably more for parents to read than to use as a resource, but it provides a little insight about how science is not about being ‘right’ and how, in fact, scientists can never prove that their hypothesis is right. http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_learn_more_weaver.shtml

I haven’t found a whole lot of material on the internet about how to think and work scientifically. I am grateful for the University of Berkeley ‘Understanding Science’ website and keep going back to it, and I also use the Science Buddies website frequently to look for activities, but there is not much else around.

What resources have you found to help your child understand and be part of the scientific process? I’d love to hear from you.

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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.

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‘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.)