wNetSchool HomeThe Practical Web Service for K-12 TeacherswNetStation
WNET Educational Initiatives
Instructional Television
Lesson Plan Database

Grades 5-6


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 of autogiros.
ITV Series
Science For You, Scientific Method: Who Needs Science?
Look Up, Other Things that Fly
Learning Objectives
Students will be able to:
Pre-viewing activity
The class will need:

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

Viewing activities
The class will need:
Post-viewing activities
The class will need:

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.)
Pre-Viewing Activities
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 model.
Focus Viewing
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 do?"
Viewing Activities
Activity 1

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 questions.

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 method.

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.

Activity 2

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.
Post-Viewing Activities
Activity 1

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.

Activity 2

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 fly.

4. Have students test their autogiro several times and calculate average speed of their autogiro.
Action Plan
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.
Varied Curriculum

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 experiments.

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

Top of lesson

Lesson Plan Database
Thirteen Ed Online