The Scientific Method
Your goal as a learning facilitator in teaching this part of the scientific method is to help your protégés to believe that they can ask questions, and that their questions, interests, and curiosity are just as valid as any old scientist’s.
Step One—Define a question or problem
Welcome back to our Be Amazing! Parents’ Blog. This entry is the second in our seven-part series on the scientific method. As a reminder, the steps of the scientific method are:
- Define a question or problem.
- Gather information and resources (observe)
- Form a hypothesis
- Perform experiments and collect data
- Analyze data
- Interpret data and draw conclusions
- Publish results
This week we are highlighting step one, “Define a question or problem.” You can read an overview of the scientific method on last week’s blog. When exploring the first step of the scientific method, the main message you want your young scientist to learn is:
“Be curious, and believe in yourself!”
Kids naturally have a well-developed sense of curiosity. It is how they learn about the world. (They usually have a highly-developed sense of experimentation, too. You probably remember this from the baby years: “Hey, what is this new thing? I wonder how it tastes…” or the toddler years: “Crayon, eh? Hmmm…crunchy. I wonder what will happen if I rub it on the wall…”).
You can nurture and develop your child’s confidence and innate curiosity through validation and encouragement. You don’t need to have all the answers in order to do this. In fact, it’s better if you don’t. For instance, you don’t need to know about that spider silk is composed of alanine- rich regions of polypeptides with beta-sheet conformation separated by amorphous regions with bulky side-chained amino acids. When your young scientist wonders about spider silk, you can say, “Great question! I’m not really sure how spiders spin their webs. How do you think they do it?”
Your young scientists will likely learn to have confidence in the validity of their curiosity by watching and hearing you give voice to yours. Over time we can lose a sense of the wonder of new discoveries by the need to get things done. The trick is to see the wonder in the mundane. The shelf is dusty again. Instead of just wiping it off, you might pause to let your young Einstein hear you wonder, “What is dust any way? How did it get there and what does it do?” Or, if your family has a pet hamster, you might notice that his teeth are different than yours. Say so. “I wonder why Cujo’s teeth are different from ours.”
Developing this kind of curiosity and confidence doesn’t require special tools or toys. However, Be Amazing science kits can be useful tools in focusing your child’s curiosity on science ideas and concepts in a safe environment. You can think of this as encouraging them to use their powers for good. Instead of wondering and experimenting about the taste of paste or the workings of your favorite watch, you can direct your child’s interest to the water-absorbing abilities of superabsorbent polymers or why sunlight but not incandescent light can change the color of energy beads. (Your watches and walls will thank you.)
As always, our goal is to assist you in helping your young scientists gain confidence in their ability to ask questions and find ways to discover answers, and to help them learn to think scientifically.
Join us next week as we tackle scientific method step two: “Observe: gather information and resources.”