Experimental Design and Curiosity

The students have been hard at work all term on their Experimental Design Projects. I believe that science should be all about curiosity. Young children are known for their curiosity. It’s a gift that many of us lose as we grow. The very best scientists never lose their curiosity, but we do learn how to satisfy it. When we have a question about the world around us, how do we find the answer? If your first thought is to Google it, you’re not alone. However, my hope is that our students can learn how to come up with a question and design a solution to find the answer.

There are some critical parts of an experimental design. First, the question. What do you want to know? Some of our students chose to assess the growth of different plants under different circumstances. Others chose a more psychological approach, wondering how their peers will answer controversial questions. Some wondered about bacterial growth, wood decay, crystal growth, sound waves, and on and on. Once they came up with a question, they needed to make a hypothesis (an educated guess about what will happen in their experiment. Our hypothesis’ followed an “If, Then” format. If Plant A receives fertilizer, then it will grow larger than Plant B. The students then developed their individual materials and methods, not unlike an ingredient and directions section of a recipe.

Finally, the best part. Each student began their experiment and carried it out to their own specifications. Some students chose experiments that could be completed in a single class period. Others chose to ask questions that take a bit longer to answer. Whether it be plant/ bacterial growth over time, or a social experiment that takes several interrogatory sessions, the students have been diligently collecting data on a schedule that they set.

Overall, each student chose something that interested them, and has continued to follow through via data collection and/or analysis. As they work to analyze and understand their data, I will encourage them to dig deeper and make lasting connections to the world around them, and hopefully to maintain a level of curiosity that lets them see the world through a scientists lens.

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