How to Teach the Scientific Method to Children

Curiosity in children about scientific elements helps them learn the scientific method.

The scientific method is a way to explore and discover concepts in science through inquiry, observation and reflection. It is an organized way with prescribed steps to follow to prove or disprove a cause and effect relationship in the scientific world. The steps that lead to a conclusion can be taught throughout the students' education career. Career scientists and kindergarten science classrooms use the scientific method to learn about the curiosities of our world.

Start with a question. Ask the students to define what they want to know about a scientific element with a how, what, why, when, who or which question. For instance, if they want to know the effect of sunlight on a bean plant, the question is, "What is the effect of sunlight on a bean seed?" The question needs to be answerable by doing an experiment and gathering data from that experiment.

Conduct research. The students research the question to see if the experiment has been done before. They look for warnings or tips for their experiment in their research.

Create a hypothesis for the question. A hypothesis is an educated guess about what the student thinks the answer to the question will be. The wording of the hypothesis is important. The results of the hypothesis have to be measurable, and it has to answer the question in step one. "If I...(do something) then...(this will occur)," according to Science Bob, is a way to word your hypothesis. In the case of the bean and sunlight, "If I give one bean seed 12 hours of sunlight and another bean seed two hours of sunlight, then the seed with the most sunlight will grow taller."

Conduct the experiment. The students prove if their hypothesis is valid or invalid in their experiment. The students change only one variable in their experiments. For the bean seed, the students would plant the seeds in the same type of container, give each seed the same amount of water and provide them with the same soil. The variable that is altered is the amount of sunlight.

Record the data after the experiment is complete. The students analyze the information they gathered from their experiment. The young scientists decide on a conclusion and answer to their hypothesis.

Students use the scientific method for school science fairs.

Publish the results of the experiment. Graphs, photos, speeches or essays are ways to communicate the results of their experiments. If the experiment was a science fair project, a three-sided display board is typically used to share the results.

  • Encourage the students to find a topic they are curious about to employ the scientific method.
  • If the hypothesis is disproven, start again at the third step and alter the hypothesis.

Susan Rickey started writing in 1994 with a technology feature article for the "Pioneer Press." She was the writer of the Klamath Forest Alliance newsletter, an environmental organization. Rickey obtained her teaching credential from California State University and acquired her Bachelor of Science from the University of Arkansas.