Experiments for Teaching Scientific Method

The steps that scientists use to gather information and verify predictions are called the Scientific Method. The Scientific Method can be applied to determine if moss only grows in shade and moist areas, to determine the strongest paper towel, and to see if classical or heavy metal music will help plants grow. Common steps in the Scientific Method are:

Write a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a testable prediction that explains an observation. Conduct a controlled experiment to determine if the hypothesis is correct and supported with data. Repeat the experiment to verify the results. Analyze the data. Revise the hypothesis if you didn’t get the expected results. Revise the experiment and complete it to collect additional data. Analyze the data. Publish your results.

Now write a hypothesis on whether or not moss only grows in shade and moist areas. Make observations and collect data. Take a nature walk and look for moss. Take photos of your finds and describe the location where you find the moss. Do your observations support your hypothesis? Do you need to revise your hypothesis? Do you need to make observations on a new hiking trail?

Collect several samples of paper towels. Gather up several pennies. We will use pennies because they are uniform in size and weight. If we collected small pebbles they might vary in size and weight. Predict which brand of paper towels is the strongest. Moisten a paper towel and hold it between your hands. Have a lab partner add one penny to the moist paper towel and continue to add pennies until the moist paper towel tears. Repeat until you have tested all brands of paper towels. The moist paper towel that holds the most pennies before tearing is the strongest. Design another experiment to test another paper towel quality and conduct the experiment to collect more data. The strongest paper towel may not be the most absorbent paper towel.

Buy a six pack of petunias or some other flower at a nursery. Play no music for 2 petunia plants; these plants are your control. Play only classical music for 2 petunia plants. Play only heavy metal music for the remaining 2 petunia plants. Be sure to give the same amount of plant food and water to all six of the plants to be sure that you only have one variable. Take observations for two weeks. Which petunia plants are the largest and healthiest after two weeks? Which plants have the most blossoms?  You can repeat the experiment for elevator music and Hip Hop or you can yell mean things to one set of plants and say nice things in a calm voice to another set of plants. Experiments must be repeatable so you need to have at least two plants in the control group and in each variable group.

How to investigative reporters use the Scientific Method? Design an experiment to determine if a neighborhood dry cleaner is polluting the air or water supply.