WHO NEEDS SCIENCE?
Students are introduced to the steps of the scientific method,
including questioning, hypothesizing, experimenting, reaching conclusions
and inferring. Through hands-on experiences students use the scientific
method to find answers to questions. They examine sealed black boxes, hypothesize,
make models, and reach conclusions about their contents. They conduct experiments
to find answers to questions they pose about the fight of autogiros (paper
"helicopters"). They also use math skills to calculate the speed
Science For You, Scientific Method: Who Needs Science?
Look Up, Other Things that Fly
Students will be able to:
- Identify and use steps of the scientific method
- Conduct scientific investigations to answer questions about sealed
black boxes and autogiros
- Formulate hypotheses and test them by experimenting
- Formulate conclusions about their original hypotheses
- Calculate speed of autogiros
- Calculate average speed of autogiros
The class will need:
- 50 triwall cardboard rectangles*
- 50 tri-wall cardboard triangles*
- 16 black boxes, empty*
- 40 glass marbles*
- Shoe Goo
- Masking tape or glue
- Labels for black boxes
Each team of 2 students will need:
*These materials are available from Delta Education, Inc., (800) 258-1302,
ask for the FOSS replacement parts catalog for ordering information
- 1 sealed black boxes, labeled A, B, C, or D (16 total for class)*(see
preparation instructions in Pre-viewing activities)
- Scratch paper
The class will need:
- Scientific method wordstrips
The class will need:
- Scientific method wordstrips
- Overhead projector
- Overhead transparency of lab worksheet
- Variety of paper for making autogiros
- Several meter tapes
- Several stopwatches
Each pair of students will need:
*The pattern is from the National Diffusion Network (NDN) project Hands
On Elementary Science developed by Carroll County Public Schools, 55 North
Court Street, Westminster, Maryland, 21157.)
- Lab worksheet, "Autogiro Experiments"
- Two autogiro patterns*
- 1 medium paper clips
- Black box: A general term for a system that cannot be seen into or
- Autogiro: A self propelling paper flying device with two opposing
- Hypothesizing: Using observations and previous knowledge to guess
an answer or predict results
- Experimenting: Testing an idea or hypothesis
- Concluding: Forming a decision or opinion by analyzing information
Note: This Black Boxes activity is part of the Models and Designs
FOSS (Full Option Science System) developed by Lawrence Hall of Science,
University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720 (415) 642-8941. FOSS is distributed
by Encyclopedia Britannica Educational Corporation, 310 South Michigan
Avenue --6th Floor, Chicago, Illinois 60604, (800) 554-9862. EBEC has given
authorization for copyrighted materials to be used in Utah's NTTI. EBEC
has also graciously contributed an overview of their Models and Design Module
and the complete teacher's guide to "Black Boxes". These are included
in the Utah NTTI notebook.
1. Using the Black Box Schematics from FOSS Models and Design Module prepare
16 black boxes, four of each design. (This is copyrighted material included
in the appendix.) Label each box with the correct letter. Securely tape
or glue the cardboard tri-wall in position. Place a marble in the box. I
highly recommend sealing the black box along all edges with a glue like
Shoe Goo. An alternative is taping with electrician's tape.
2. Divide the class into teams of two students. Show a black box to the
class. Challenge the class to figure out what is in a box. Give each team
one of the sealed black boxes. It is best to try to spread the four kinds
of boxes throughout the class. Right away students usually say there is
a marble in the box. Ask them if there is anything else in the box. Tell
them to concentrate on the location and shape of any objects in the black
box. Tell them to draw a "map" of what they think is in the black
box on a piece of paper. Remind the students to not PRE VIEWING ACTIVITIES
try and break the seal of the box and to not shake them violently or mark
on them with anything.
3. Draw 16 rectangles, representing the black boxes, in a 4 x 4 grid on
the board. Label the columns with the letters of the boxes. After ten to
fifteen minutes when the students have made their determinations about what
they think is in the box, have one from each team come up and draw their
"map" in an a correctly labeled rectangle.
4. Discuss with the class each of the drawings. Point out what you see in
each drawing, the shapes and locations the have drawn.
5. Tell the class about scientific collaboration, that scientists often
get together to share their ideas to try to solve problems. Arrange the
class in four groups so all the students with the same letters are together.
Encourage them to share their ideas and work for a consensus. After ten
minutes have one person from each group come draw their consensus model
on the board. Discuss with the class their findings.
6. Show the class empty black boxes, marbles and tri-wall triangles and rectangles.
Ask them if they think they could build a black box like the sealed black
box. Give time for building these models.
7. Have students return to original collaborative groups and share with
each other their new ideas. Encourage them to reach a consensus.
8. Should you reveal the secret? This activity was designed at Lawrence
Hall of Science at Berkeley as a FOSS activity. "The FOSS position
is that you never open the black boxes. As long as the boxes stay closed,
everyone is right--no one is wrong." Students will continue to be curious
about the black boxes and will eventually develop confidence in their own
It is important to give the students a specific responsibility
for viewing. Say, "When we did the activity with the black boxes we
were being scientists. We were trying to solve a problem and find out the
answer to a question. As we watch this video segment we will see other people
being like scientists. I want you to watch for the things that are in common
to what all scientist do. What are the steps of the process that all scientist
1. To give the students a specific responsibility for viewing, say to them,
"I am going to show you a segment of a video. You will see a man doing
something that people can't really do. I want you to watch him and think
of questions that you might ask him so that you can figure out how he is
able to do what he is doing." BEGIN the video where you see
the host and hear him say, Who needs science? I do. PAUSE when the
host says, and it's used by scientists who ask questions about how the world
works." Ask the students to share the questions they would like to
ask the host. Don't evaluate or comment on their ideas at this time. Tell
the students that the first step in being a good scientist is to ask good
2. Remind the students about the black box activity. Say to them, What were
some of the questions that you asked yourselves and each other about the
black boxes? What was the big question that we were all trying to find the
answer to?" Tell the students that asking a good question is the first
step in the scientific method. Place the wordstrip Ask a good question"
on the board.
3. To give specific responsibility for viewing the next segment, ask the
students to watch the boy and girl and look for the question that they have
about the word cards they are viewing in the mirror. RESUME the tape.
PAUSE when the boy says, "How come do some stay the same and
some don't/" Ask the students what the question is? Write the boy's
question on the board. Remind them that this is the first step of the scientific
4. To focus for viewing the next segment, ask the students to watch for
what the boy and girl do to answer the question.
RESUME the tape. PAUSE when the boys says, but hood and hiked
are just regular old words." Ask the students what the boy and girl
have been doing? Point out that they have been saying Could it be ?"
Explain that they are making guesses about what could be an answer to their
question. Explain that they are hypothesizing. Place the wordstrip Make
a hypothesis" on the board.
5. Ask the students to look to see if the boy and girl figure out the answer
to the question. RESUME the tape. PAUSE when the girl says,
And here they are, cookbook and icebox." Ask the students if the boy
and girl found an answer to the question. Have students share with a person
sitting near them what they found out. Explain to the class that after the
boy and girl decided on a hypothesis that they experimented to find out
if their hypothesis was correct. Place the wordstrip Experiment to test
your hypothesis" on the board. Ask the students, What did their experimenting
tell them?" What did the boy and girl learn?" Explain that this
is their conclusion. A conclusion is a statement about the hypothesis. Ask,
Was their hypothesis correct?" Explain that the last step in the scientific
method is doing something with your conclusion. Say, Sometimes you find
out your conclusion is correct, and sometimes you find out it is wrong.
You can make inferences from your conclusion. This is the last step of the
scientific method. Place the wordstrip Make inferences using your conclusion."
6. Remove the wordstrips from the board. Ask students to check to see if
they can remember these five steps of the scientific method. Ask them to
list them on a piece of paper. Tell students to check their answers. RESUME
the tape. PAUSE when the host says, That's called inferring."
Check with the students to see how many they could remember.
7. Can you think of questions that science is still trying to find the answers
to?" RESUME the tape. PAUSE when the host says, that
the problems have been identified and solutions can be found."
8. Do you remember the host flying at the beginning of the program? Does
anyone think they know how he did it?" Listen to ideas. Let's watch.
STOP when the host says, And your brain assembles them into motion."
or when he says, you can make motion". REMOVE THE TAPE.
1. INSERT TAPE, Other Things that Fly". To give students
a specific responsibility for viewing, say, This is an introduction to a
scientific investigation that we will be doing today. Look for two different
kinds of helicopters that are found in nature." BEGIN playing
the video at the beginning of the second major segment Helicopters"
when the word 'helicopter' appears on the screen. PAUSE when Robot
says, ...you'll find that nature has quite a few helicopters." Ask
the students to tell a partner two helicopters that are found in nature.
2. Say, How long do you think mankind has been trying to make helicopters.
RESUME tape. STOP when Robot says, Modern helicopters fly
much the same way as Sykorsky's earliest model." FAST FORWARD
to the segment that begins with Robot saying, You can make your own whirly
bird..." and the screen shows a girl in a pink shirt.
3. STOP when Robot says, can you predict which kind of propellers
will work the best?" REWIND to the beginning of this segment.
Say, "Do you think you could make this helicopter? Some people call
it a whirlybird. I like to call them autogiros because they move by themselves.
Auto means 'self' and 'gyro' means rotate. So these helicopters are actually
self rotating flying machines."
4. Give the students a paper with two the pattern for two basic autogiros.
Step by step have them cut out and fold one of the autogiros. Let them practice
flying their autogiro.
1. Ask, "What are some of the questions they wanted to investigate
about these helicopters or autogiros?" As the students respond, list
the questions on the board. "Ask, "What other questions can you
think of that you might want
to find the answer to about these helicopters or autogiros?" Add these
to the list on the board.
2. Choose a question such as "Can I make the autogiro fly more slowly?"
Write this on the board. Place wordstrip #1, "Ask a good question"
next to the question. Remind the class that the first step to the scientific
method is to ask a good question. Ask, "What could we do to the autogiro
to make it fly more slowly? Who can make a guess about what you think the
answer is to the question?" Choose one that is appropriate. Remind
the class that another word for guess is hypothesis. Place wordstrip #2,
"Make a hypothesis", on the board beneath wordstrip #2.
3. Have the students turn to their lab worksheet. Place an overhead transparency
of the lab worksheet on the overhead projector. Show the students where
and have them write the question. Say, "I want you to think of the
guesses you have about how you could make the autogiro fly more slowly.
Choose the one that you think is most likely. This is your hypothesis. Write
your hypothesis in step two." Turn off the overhead.
4. Ask, "What is the next step in the scientific method?" Listen
for responses and then place wordstrip #3, "Experiment to test your
hypothesis", on the board beneath wordstrip #2. Tell the students that
their next step is to experiment and test their hypothesis. Tell the students
that they may alter the other autogiro in some way, or they may make an
entirely different autogiro out of other paper.
5. Allow students time to construct new autogiros to test their hypotheses.
Show them how to compare the flight of their new autogiro to the old autogiro
by holding them both up and releasing them at the same time. Monitor their
progress, offering suggestions. After about ten minutes have different students
in the class show their experiments. Ask, "Did your experiments show
that your hypotheses was correct? Whether it did or not, it is time to make
your conclusion. A conclusion can either say 'Yes, my hypothesis was correct.'
Or it can say, 'No, my hypothesis was incorrect.'" Place the wordstrip
#4, "Make a conclusion" beneath wordstrip #3. Return to the overhead
transparency and show students how to write a conclusion.
6. Say, "What does your conclusion tell you? What does your conclusion
tell you about other things? What you learn from you conclusion is called
inference." Place wordstrip #5, "Making inferences", beneath
wordstrip #4. Talk about examples of inferences about autogiros. Have the
students write these on their lab worksheet.
1. Say, "How can we find out how fast the autogiros travel?" Students
should come up with the idea of calculating the speed by measuring the distance
and dividing it by the time. Review with students how to find the speed
of an object.
2. Set up several test stations in the classroom where students can calculate
the speed of their autogiros. Measure and mark a particular distance, such
as 200 cm. A higher distance makes it possible to get a more accurate measurement.
With a really high ceiling and a ladder, the class can measure even longer
distances. Have a stopwatch available for students to record the time it
takes the autogiros to fall. Remind the students that they can calculate
the speed by dividing the distance by the time.
3. Show students how to make a chart for keeping track of their results.
Have students keep a record of the autogiros they make and the speed they
4. Have students test their autogiro several times and calculate average
speed of their autogiro.
Make a class bulletin board with articles from newspapers and
magazines of real life examples of people using the scientific method. Ask
questions about real life problems in the school or neighborhood and try
to solve them using the scientific method.
Invite scientists to the class and explain how he or she uses the scientific
method in a practical way at work.
Investigate other black boxes" , or things that cannot actually be
seen, such dinosaurs, atoms, sound or light.
Use the scientific method to investigate classroom situations. Try to find
out how people learn something new such as spelling words. Students may
want to investigate if other students learn best by hearing or by seeing,
or both. Set up class experiments or encourage students to set up individual
Set up an investigation to see if students perform better when listening
to different kinds of music. Arrange for different kinds of music to be
played during timed math facts tests. Do students perform best listening
to a particular kind of music or to no music.
Do students perform better at different times of the day. Investigate to
find out. Students should make an hypothesis and then set up a procedure
to find out if their hypothesis is correct or not.
Master Teacher: Patricia Spigarelli
Lesson Plan Database
Thirteen Ed Online