In preparation for the Spofford Pond 6th grade science fair in March, students learned about the importance of experimental design. By designing mock experiments, they learned about the interrelated steps that are crucial to the design of a good experiment.
First, we discussed the steps of the scientific method and what makes a good experiment: 1. Asking a Question 2. Researching your topic 3. Hypothesizing 4. Identifying your variables (controls, independent, dependent) 5. Making sure your experiment is repeatable and has multiple samples 6. Writing a clear procedure. To help students get started thinking like scientists, they tried to define a hypothesis to answer the question “What kind of marble is the best”? but they realized that this question does not lead to a measurable and quantifiable hypothesis (an educated guess).
Students then used a worksheet to design an experiment using the steps to answer the question “What factor can affect reaction time in the Ruler Drop Experiment?”. Then the class discussed their hypothesis, defined variables, replication, and sample size. They were given a worksheet at the end of class to help them start designing their experiment.