One thing that we have in our science curriculum is “Matter”, and the learning targets are so simplistic. We are also supposed to teach “The Scientific Method” which, for many teachers, consists of lots of fun experiments and “oohs” and “ahs”. I agree that this is fun and very motivating for students, but I really try to work our “looking closer” and digging deeper into this unit. I really think that helping students understand that scientists are always searching to notice things, to look for patterns, and to answer questions is very attainable–and is so closely tied to what we do all day!
Here’s an example of a lab we just completed.
First, I told the students that we were going to do an experiment–and that my question was “Will this ball bounce higher on the tile floor or the carpet floor?” The students rolled their eyes as if to let me know that this was SOOOOO ridiculously easy. I told them that I was glad they all had a hypothesis, and that I was going to conduct a very brief experiment and I needed them to observe. I assigned a student to take notes. I informed that that I would bounce the ball on each surface three times and we would observe.
Round one–dropped the ball from waist height to the tile floor. Bounced the ball full force on the carpet (like “took out a ceiling tile” full force!) CARPET WINS! Gasps escaped…complaints of “But you can’t . . . ”
I hushed the critics.
Round two–dropped the ball from above my head to the tile floor. Let it trickle out of my hand knee-height on the carpet. TILE WINS! Now the scientist were getting downright unruly! “That’s not FAIR!” and other grumbles filled the air.
I held up my hand to stop them.
Round three–dropped the ball on the tile with a nicely timed spinning motion. Threw it underhand WAY up high before dropping it onto the carpet. CARPET WINS!
So . . . I announce loudly, ” My conclusion is . . .balls will bounce higher on carpet than on tile!”
Pandemonium. I settled them down, and asked them innocently, “What’s the matter?” Boy, did I get an earful. It was obvious that they understood that this was NOT a fair test.