Teaching Scientific Inquiry steps?

Discussion in 'Homeschooling' started by Meghan, Jul 23, 2011.

  1. Meghan

    Meghan New Member

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    Moving forward with the new year, I'd really like my kids to follow some steps of scientific inquiry for experiments.

    I don't care if they make posters or write reports, necessarily, but I would like them to

    form a hypothesis
    Perform the experiment
    Make a conclusion


    We started some of this in the spring, anyway, with the failed potato mold-growing experiment.

    I guess my question is: will formalizing their experiments by making them follow steps take the 'thrill' out of the experiments for them?

    How do you guys handle teaching Scientific Inquiry skills to the young elementary set?
     
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  3. Lindina

    Lindina Active Member

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    I don't think so. If they pick the experiment, and you find them doing it on their own, just ask them what their hypothesis is, what their plan is, and ask them to write it up when they form their conclusions. Did they prove or disprove their hypothesis? What kind of further experiment(s) would be needed? and so on.
     
  4. Cornish Steve

    Cornish Steve Active Member

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    For young elementary, I wouldn't worry too much about the scientific method. It's more useful for the older age groups. At elementary level, I'd focus on sparking an interest in the world around them - which means performing intriguing experiments. The more you can excite them to do followup experiments, the more you've succeeded.

    One thing I've found useful is performing experiments that at first appear to be unrelated but later are seen to be a single phenomenon. For example, note the order of colors in a rainbow. Then note their order in a secondary rainbow. Then use a hosepipe to produce a mist in which can be seen a rainbow. Then note how a prism can produce a rainbow effect, and move it around to change the order of colors. Then watch how a stick appears to be 'bent' when placed in water. Then note that the sky is blue and the sun is yellow and think about why this is. We know today that these things are related, but, historically, it took time to link these ideas together. Synthesizing different ideas into a single larger idea can be very powerful.
     
  5. Embassy

    Embassy New Member

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    I don't get too formal. We mostly discuss things. I do tend to avoid things like having a child keep a notebook and write down conclusions because that tends to make science a chore for a younger elementary child who is still learning how to write.

    For instance, I'll set up an experiment and ask them what they think will happen (hypothesis). Then we do the experiment and talk about what happened and why it happened. And sometimes we get to discuss why I didn't get the experiment to work as it should:lol: I find it helps to have a back-up experiment for "user-error."
     
  6. CrystalCA

    CrystalCA New Member

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    IMHO I think a science notebook is great. We have used them in 1st grade on up. It really showed my dd's that their opinion counts ( even if its wrong) and if they were wrong or not. We still look at the last few years of the notebooks and laugh at some answers ..I don't know to a quite in depth hypothesis that was totally right.

    When my kids were younger I would write what they said and after the experiment we would read out loud what they 1st thought would happen. My kids love the notebooks.
    My youngest ( who is almost 14) actually did an experiment over the weekend ( its an off school week here) and the first thing she got out was her notebook, then all the equipment. She read to us all of the stuff she observed and described what everything looked like under the microscope. So yep I didn't think notebooks take the fun out of experiments, I think it helps them "see" the experiments differently and makes it fun to read back to themselves and others (bonus for saving for transcript help too).
     
  7. Meghan

    Meghan New Member

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    Thanks guys!

    I love the idea of the notebooks, and I think to start me writing it down will definitely be helpful. More like.. a discussion of what will happen than a REALLY formalized hypothesis.


    Steve- love the idea of experiments that build on each other. I had to laugh as I was reading your post- my kids LOVE to make 'rainbows' with the hose, and ds and I had a conversation about one of his toys in a glass of water (and the optical illusion) last week. I really love science! (I'm the mom who let her 2yo bring in a snowball to see what would happen if he put it on the heat vent... :p ).
     
  8. crazymama

    crazymama Active Member

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    Look for the book Creepy Crawlies and the Scientific Method. We are loving it!!
     
  9. Ohio Mom

    Ohio Mom New Member

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    Steve, I thought this was amazing. I hate science, but when I read this, I was excited. Nothing to do with science has ever made me excited. Do you have any other ideas? I think I can do this one:lol:
     
  10. Cornish Steve

    Cornish Steve Active Member

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    The reason I like to pull together seemingly different ideas into a single unifying principle is an incident in a chemistry class when I was a teenager. The teacher, who was passionate about chemistry, explained how electrons are positioned in various orbits and how this affects the properties of atoms (e.g., the halogens are all one electron short of a complete set, so they display similar properties). He then discussed spectra, and showed us the spectrum of a sodium light, a neon light, and so on - and how spectra can reveal the chemical elements present in distant stars. Then came the gob-smacker: Neils Bohr once realized that the precise lines in a spectrum equate to the energy needed for electrons to hop from one orbit to another! Bam! What an insight! (Now, it's not as simple as that, but the explanation was very powerful and has always stuck with me.)

    You could expand these ideas. Listen to the change in pitch of an ambulance siren as it rushes past, which reveals the Doppler affect. Then note the red shift and blue shift of distant stars - moving each atomic spectrum to higher or lower wavelengths - again revealing the Doppler effect. Now you have another set of ideas that all tie together (although these are better suited to teens than younger children).
     
  11. Cornish Steve

    Cornish Steve Active Member

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    Conservation of angular momentum is another principle that can be explained in this way. If possible, break apart a bicycle so the student, while sitting on a stool that can rotate, can hold an axle while the parent spins the wheel. While the wheel spins, the student changes the angle of the wheel - and finds himself moving to the left or right. Now go to an ice rink and watch skaters spinning with arms extended and then with arms upward - and note the difference in rotational speed. Then, play with a gyroscope or, if you can, have the student ride on a Segway. Then discover why, after the Japanese tsunami, the earth rotates at a slightly different speed. All of a sudden, the abstract concept of angular momentum comes to life.

    Then there's the subject that I spent years researching at university: magnetism. It's one of the most intriguing of subjects. Have your children do a Google search for "magnetic fluid" and "art", for example. :)
     
  12. Cornish Steve

    Cornish Steve Active Member

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    I'm on a roll now - sorry!

    What about phase changes? This would be appropriate for younger children. First, convert water to ice in the freezer. Then melt the ice and boil the water. Hold a mirror over the boiling water to show how it condenses. After that, you can explain the water cycle - evaporation, condensation, rain, ice, snow, hail, and so on.

    Next, add salt to ice while it's in the refrigerator to show how it now melts. Next, fill a glass bowl with water and ice (so all the ice is floating on the surface) and note carefully how the water line remains unchanged when the ice melts. Why is this? What would happen to fish if it didn't happen? Go ice-fishing in winter! Go out early in the morning to note the dew - or note the mist over a river in the early morning.

    Next, watch phase changes in other materials - jello, for example. One of the most fascinating, although we take it for granted, is the phase change from liquid to solid when making instant mashed potato: The change is almost instantaneous. Just a few seconds after stirring a liquid, you can pour the bowl over the child's head and nothing falls out! And, if the children would like grits for breakfast, there's a phase change there too. Finally, visit a play in which they use dry ice for a mist effect.
     
  13. Ohio Mom

    Ohio Mom New Member

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    Steve, great ideas. I am looking forward to working with some of these with the children. Thanks. If you have any more ideas, keep them coming:)
     

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