Think Like a Scientist: Teaching the Scientific Method to Kids

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

If you’re wondering how to teach kids to think like a scientist, the solution is pretty simple — teach them the scientific method. While that may seem easy on the surface, introducing the scientific method for kids in a way that will make the scientific method stick in their minds is often challenging.

Merriam-Webster defines the scientific method as follows:

“Principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.”

While that may make sense to scientists and many adults, some children may be confused by the definition, or they may not be able to recall all of the steps involved in the scientific method. Although some kids may be a bit overwhelmed by the scientific method, they still have to learn what it is and how it can be applied in scientific settings as well as the real world.

It’s vital for kids to have a practical knowledge of the scientific method because it’s the foundation of all scientific discoveries and science classes. It’s also the standard for how professional scientists conduct their research and resolve problems. Just as importantly, the scientific method enables students to solve problems on their own and understand their surroundings better.

Teaching the Scientific Method

One of the smartest things you can do to help kids remember the scientific method is to make a visual that breaks it down into a series of steps that are easy to recall. Here are the steps that make up the scientific method expressed in basic terms children should be able to understand:

  • Purpose: The question that needs to be answered or a problem that has to be resolved.
  • Research: Observing and collecting evidence in an attempt to address the purpose of an experiment.
  • Hypothesis: The best guess for how your question will be answered or your problem will be solved.
  • Experiment: The test of your hypothesis.
  • Analysis: The evaluation of the information you recorded during your experiment.
  • Conclusion: Your final response to your purpose, meaning this is the answer to your question or the resolution for your problem.

While breaking the methodology into individual steps makes it easier for kids to remember, it may not be enough for some students to remember the scientific method. If that’s the case, you may have to take things a bit further. One of the easy ways to teach the scientific method is to use a mnemonic trick to make the steps easy to recall.

Try making a sentence out of words that begin with the letters representing each step in the scientific method. It’s okay if your sentence is silly or lacks real sense. In fact, that might make it even easier for kids to remember.

Here’s an example of a sentence you may want to use:

Peter Right Has Excellent Apple Cakes.

Fun Scientific Method Activities

One of the most effective ways you can reinforce your verbal and visual explanations of the scientific method is to get the kids involved in some fun scientific method activities. Here are a few that will help reinforce what the scientific method is:

  • Use Tactile Boxes: If you have some shoe boxes lying around, you can make them into tactile boxes. Simply cut a hole in one end that’s big enough for a hand to fit through, put an item or two in the box and secure the lid. Have the kids put their hand in the box and ask them what they think it contains. Better yet, have them draw what they think is in there and write a description of it.
  • Plant Gardens: You can plant a garden to see if plants grow better with full or partial sunlight. Plant one garden in direct sunlight and a similar garden in an area that only gets partial sunlight throughout the day. Have your kids observe the gardens as the plants grow and keep a record of their observations. At the end of the growing season, the children can analyze their observations and draw conclusions about their gardening experiment.
  • Card Game: You can create a card game your kids can play individually or together. Make a card for each step in the scientific process that has both a picture and a written description of the step. Then, have the kids put the cards in the proper sequence to complete the scientific method. To make it even more challenging, you can use the steps as they relate to an actual experiment, and then have the kids put them in the right order for a real-life application.

The scientific method is just one of the many things your kids will learn about when they attend one of our summer camps or after-school clubs. We proudly offer these to children ages 4 – 11 across parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, New York and Virginia. Contact Science Explorers to learn more about our programs today.