One way to teach children about science and how to use the scientific method is to engage them in testable science projects. Virtually all school science projects must be testable or based on a testable question. Introducing kids to such projects and the scientific method now will get them better prepared for when science fair time comes around to your child's school. This is not to say that your project can't just be for fun at home if you need to stay occupied on a rainy day.
The Scientific Method
Teaching kids how to form a testable question is the first crucial step in introducing them to the scientific method. Science projects must begin with a testable question that can be refined or expanded after some research. Younger students can start their projects with a broad question, then follow it in the scientific method with research and observation. Perhaps with some help of a teacher or parent, the students can then refine their question into a testable one and eventually form a hypothesis. The hypothesis is the crucial third step of the scientific method.
Types of Questions
The sophistication level of a testable science project for kids varies greatly as children progress from elementary school through high school. The subject of a question can be as simple as what kind of paper airplane flies the fastest or how much water is ideal to cultivate a certain kind of plant. High school students can take these ideas to the next level by testing different kinds of fabrics on a variety of airplane models or observing the effects of different mixes of water and fertilizer. All of these projects can be readily tested using household materials and the scientific method.
Research and Investigation
A testable question doesn't have to be perfect. In fact, part of the scientific process consists of finding and correcting errors through testing and observation. Kids should learn that crafting a testable question can take several sometimes tedious steps of trial and error and that this should not discourage them from completing their project. Any step of the scientific method may lead back to the initial testable question, which may need to be revised or perhaps proved wrong entirely.
The experiment is the physical demonstration of the original hypothesis that began the project and, depending on the kind of question asked, this will often require the use of a model or a detailed record if the process takes a long time. For the science project that asks about airplane models, the method of demonstration is more obvious than a long-term project about plants or a more complex question about mechanics or computer science. Teachers and parents can vary their working models to demonstrate their testable science projects depending on the children's age and skill level.
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