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General Science and Teaching

Scientific Method

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Monica Holloway Monica Holloway 2990 Points

Hi All, What is your favorite way to teach the scientific method? Do you have any favorite resources that you use? What are some experiments that you used as an example to this process? (I teach 6th grade). Thank you so much!!

Sandy Gady Sandy Gady 43175 Points

Hi Monica, The article Tina sent you to is an excellent one, the use of the Scientific Method as the only method for accessing Science is slowly being “replaced” with other models. That being said, my state mandates middle school students use the format and includes the format on our state test. What I am seeing is less of a rigidity in having to regurgitate the format step by step in its entirety and know the components and how to utilize them within an investigation. When I introduce the Scientific Method I have a series of slides I created identifying the components of each of the steps. Even if we call the method something else or use a different model, students still need to know how to write a hypothesis, list materials and procedure used so anyone that wanted could replicate the investigation. Data has to be collected and interpreted and conclusions have to be formalized and shared. As to where to find investigations for specifically teaching the Scientific Method, there are lots of resources available to you. What I look for when I am specifically teaching my introduction unit, I try to find something that is easily measureable, recordable on a data chart and graphable using a line graph. I also want something students measure over a period of time, generally a week that includes a weekend. My favorite is to use growing animals I find at Dollar Tree. I introduce the lab and write the procedure on day one. I also choose to teach students how to use a triple beam balance even though I have electronic scales just because I can. Day two they actually measure their animals with rulers and calipers using metric in three dimensions as well as mass. I use the three dimension so we can calculate volume as well. Students are in groups of four and there are generally 6 or 7 animals in each of their tubs of water. The initial packaging tells the students the animals will grow 600%, so I have them do the calculations of what 600% of their animals are, both in terms of growth and mass. This is a lab students are fascinated with because the growth of the animal from Friday to when they take the final measurements on Monday is significant. Now they have to figure out how to deal with data for two days they didn’t physically take. That is a discussion that is priceless. Another favorite is what we call “Pocket Pals.” I use the remnants from the laminating material to make the pockets. Each student cuts a sheet 13 cm x 10 cm, precision is not particularly critical. They fold the pocket in half, sealing one of the lengths and one of the widths with masking tape. Wet a piece of paper towel that is folded into quarters or eighths and fits within the pocket. Make sure you wring out most of the water. Insert two bean seeds into each side of the pocket. Seal the remaining length and width, label one side A1 and A2; the other B1 and B2. The completed project is then kept in their pockets all day and preferably under their pillow at night. Each day students measure and record the data on the growth of their seeds. I have attached a photo so you can see a completed pocket pal. There is almost always a change in the beans daily so long as the pocket is a closed system. The trick is for them to figure out how to measure the growth of the bean once it starts growing at angles. FYI, this is where string comes in. I don’t tell the students to use the string, some of them actually figure it out while others use rulers at various angles and add all of the pieces together. This is where students really begin to appreciate using the metric system instead of dealing with fractions. They become metric converts overnight. Good luck in your teaching, I am anxious to hear what investigations you end up using.


Pocket_Pal.jpg (1.23 Mb)

Sandra Yarema Sandy Yarema 2920 Points

I am a teacher educator, and it is indeed challenging to provide strategies for teaching about Nature of Science and scientific methods. I provide resources to show that there are a number of different methods for scientific research, and that they depend on processes that can be approached as a cycle.

Some of the resources I share with my pre-service teachers include:
An excerpt from:From Reflections of a Physicist, Percy Bridgman, 1955:
How Science Works: An interactive website maintained by U.C.- Berkeley to explain nature of science, science methods and processes as applied to learning and school science practice,

And an article to read-
Brown, R. A. & Kumar, A. (2013). Point of View: The Scientific method: Reality or Myth? Journal of College Science Teaching, 42(4). 10-11.

Monica Holloway Monica Holloway 2990 Points

Thank you all for your ideas and resources. I am looking forward to reading through the articles and making plans to implement these. Gracias!!

Monica Holloway Monica Holloway 2990 Points

Tina, Thank you for the book recommendation. My book should be here soon!!!

Monica Holloway Monica Holloway 2990 Points

Tina, Thank you for the book recommendation. My book should be here soon!!!

Monica Holloway Monica Holloway 2990 Points

Sandy Yarema, Thank you for the sites. I have bookmarked these so I can refer to often. Is the following article available on I wasn't able to find it. Thank you!! [b]And an article to read- Brown, R. A. & Kumar, A. (2013). Point of View: The Scientific method: Reality or Myth? Journal of College Science Teaching, 42(4). 10-11.[/b]

Monica Holloway Monica Holloway 2990 Points

Do any of you assign labs that are not necessarily related to the content you are teaching? If a lab provides practice writing a hypothesis, listing materials and procedures, as well as thinking critically would this suffice if I cannot relate it to what we are learning with content? The reason I ask is because last year I remember having a difficult time matching labs with some of the content. Various reasons such as space, expense and logistics did not always work with what I was able to find. As a result, we probably did a lab about once a month or so. This coming school year I would like to do more labs if possible. Also, I would like to do more graphing this year if you have any suggestions on how to incorporate that as well. Thank you!!!

Jennifer Rahn Jennifer Rahn 67955 Points

Hi Monica, I don't need to tell you that at this age, making it real is what it is all about. So how about making the jump to mathematical abstraction measuring and graphing things in your students' everyday lives? Environmental characteristics, weather phenomena, day length - you name it, you can probably find a way to graph it. Two things that I think are especially important when starting with graphing. First, the data needs to "tell the story." Second, the data should havect enough variability to make for some interesting questions, because no set of data is perfect (at least I hope not) to make the story interesting. What causes the data not to fall on the line? I am attaching a collection of graphing articles and book chapters you may find interesting and useful. Most discuss approaches to graphing and data interpretation at the middle school level. A couple others are more directly applied (think catapults, environment, roadkill) for applying data analysis skills.

Graphing Middle School Collection (10 items)
Monica Holloway Monica Holloway 2990 Points

Thank you Jennifer for these resources!!

Monica Holloway Monica Holloway 2990 Points

What has been your most successful way in teaching about independent, dependent, and controlled variables?? I know hands on is probably first on the list. Any suggestions on how some experiments to help teach these concepts?

Monica Holloway Monica Holloway 2990 Points

Hi, Here is what looks like a fun activity I will be doing next week. I had trouble uploading so here is the link. What has been helpful for you when teaching the difference between predictions and hypothesis? It seems sometimes younger (6th grade) children believe they are the same and was wondering if you have some concrete explanations that you share with them??

Yolanda Smith-Evans Yolanda Smith-Evans 6425 Points

Thanks Monica for that link to past discussions. I really found the information quite useful. How quickly we forget.

Maureen Stover Maureen Stover 41070 Points


Wow! You've got a great list of resources and ideas from other educators! :) I teach lower elementary, so instead of the scientific method, I try to focus on the Engineering Design process and inquiry-based learning. The Engineering is Elementary website has great ideas, resources, and videos for teaching students how the Engineering Design process works. There are also many fantastic articles related to inquiry-based activities and teaching ideas.


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