Although second graders are just beginning to learn about the scientific method and how to conduct and analyze science experiments, it isn't too early to teach inquiry skills. Young elementary students are curious by nature, so second grade is an ideal time to educate and instruct students on scientific observation techniques. Acquiring skills necessary for scientific discovery will help students as they progress into more challenging science classes, such as earth science, biology, chemistry and physics.
Second graders should learn how to effectively make observations so they can predict possible outcomes. Teachers might introduce students to the word "hypothesis" and explain how they can make educated guesses about potential results of scientific experiments. Elementary inquiry skills revolve around asking the right questions, so students can learn how to assess topics such as animal life cycles, phases of matter and the water cycle, according to the Arizona K-12 Academic Standards website.
Observations and Measurements
Second-grade students can learn to make relevant observations before, during and after investigation and experimentation. They can learn the importance of having a control group, so accurate comparisons and contrasts are possible. They might need to use rulers or thermometers to report and record measurements before and after experimentation. The California State Board of Education encourages second-grade students to report measurements using the metric system, but other states allow measurements to be reported in other formats. Inquiry is more than just finding answers -- it's about the process of discovery.
Experiments and Investigations
Even though most second graders are anxious to participate in hands-on scientific experiments, learning proper investigation procedures is an important part of the inquiry process. Students should learn how to use equipment, such as microscopes, telescopes, thermometers, balances and test tubes, properly. Teachers can educate them on the importance of not contaminating their workspace or materials to get the most accurate results. Recording data from supervised classroom experiments in areas, such as life, space and earth science, is an important part of the inquiry process. Even if second graders have trouble spelling difficult scientific words and struggle with writing complicated sentences, they can learn to organize predictions and results in notebooks or on graph paper. Drawings and colored diagrams are also valuable data-recording methods.
Students should learn to use their five senses to analyze scientific data and process results, so they can draw accurate conclusions. During the process of discovery, materials might change color, texture or temperature. Objects might grow or shrink, produce an odor or emit an unusual sound. Teachers should carefully instruct students not to taste, touch or smell materials that are hazardous. When drawing conclusions, students must learn to compare results with their original predictions and see if initial questions can now be answered. Students should also learn that the results of some experiments aren't conclusive, so additional tests might be required. Communicating and sharing results is an important part of the scientific inquiry process.
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