Dallas Zoological Society Partnership : Elementary

Experiment and Discover

Topic Overview
Quick Facts
Historically, the scientific method is traced to Alhazen, a medieval Muslim scientist from Basra, Iraq who emphasized gathering information through experiment in his Book of Optics.
An example of a seven step scientific method is: 1) state the problem, 2) research the problem, 3) state the hypothesis, 4) test the hypothesis, 5) analyze the results, 6) state the conclusion, and 7) repeat the work.
Engineers often use a different set of steps than scientists. One example is as follows: 1) define the need, 2) establish design criteria, 3) do background research of what has already been done, 4) prepare preliminary designs and material lists, 5) build and test a prototype, 6) retest and redesign, 7) present results.
Nobel physics laureate P.W. Bridgman once said, “It seems to me that there is a good deal of ballyhoo about scientific method. I venture to think that the people who talk most about it are the people who do least about it…Scientific method is something talked about my people standing on the outside and wondering how the scientist manages to do it…In short, science is what scientists do, and there are as many scientific methods as there are individual scientists.”
Pictures of dinosaurs in the media are constructed from a combination of scientific theory and filling in the gaps with artistic imagination.
Aristotle supposedly provided long arguments as to why men and women had different numbers of teeth, without bothering to verify his assumption.
A scientific law describes how something works. A scientific theory describes why something works.
Popular Science magazine selected the “10 worst jobs in science.” Number two involved some incredibly skilled observers – those who inspect the 1.5 billion tons of manure produced by livestock each year in order to learn about how to eliminate the bacteria E. coli from our food supply.
It is estimated that 50-100 million animals are used worldwide for experiment (including a large number of fruit flies and mice). Most of these animals are either killed during the experiment or subsequently euthanized.
Approximately 30 years ago, Viking 1 sent back images from Mars that looked remarkably like there was a giant face of a man on the Martian surface. Theories of alien civilizations filled the popular press. NASA was also seduced by this pseudoscience, as the “Face on Mars” became a priority for Mars Global Surveyor 1997. A scheduled flight over the region proved that the image it was just a landform and not an alien artifact.
Begin the Lesson
Students learn about the steps of the scientific method. Students explore each component and then apply the process in various learning situations.
Whole Class Introduction to the Lesson
You will need at least one computer with Internet connectivity and a projection device, a classroom with more than one computer, or access to a computer lab.� This introduction will take approximately 10 minutes to complete.
Use optical illusions to introduce the differences between human perception and reality and how scientific analysis can help us determine what is true. Optical illusions highlight the challenges of measurement and observation. The sites:
http://www.indiana.edu/~ensiweb/lessons/percep.html, http://www.eyetricks.com,
and http://www.niehs.nih.gov/kids/illusion/illusions.htm
provide visual examples to present to the class.
Sample Questions:
What do you see in the picture?
How would you determine if your observations are true?
Why do you think your eyes see something different that reality?
What do your experiences with optical illusions tell you about relying solely on your senses for observation?
Can two different observers arrive at different conclusions?
How can scientific methods ensure that your observations match reality?
As part of the introduction, you may want to review some of the glossary terms in advance of students going online. At this point you can launch the WebLesson as whole-class activity using a projection device, or you can assign students to work individually or in teams in a computer lab.
WebLesson Sites
Have you ever participated in a science fair? Are you planning to participate in one soon? If so, you will need to know the scientific method. It is the way scientists prove facts and make new discoveries. The scientific method is used to develop new medicines, improve technology, make safer products, and even solve crimes. It works.

The scientific method was used in ancient times, and it is still used by researchers today. In a real sense, it is a way of learning how to learn.
As you learn about the scientific method, think about some of the things you have questions about. Here are some examples: Why do cats use a litter box but dogs don't? Why do birds lay eggs instead of giving birth? Why does milk go sour? Think about the questions you have that you want to find answers to. What kind of experiments would you use to investigate these questions?
Lesson Pages
The Scientific Project Flow Chart
Galileo's Battle for the Heavens
Rich Media
Animal Scent by Paige and Nick
Rich Media
Conclusion & Project
Scientists are curious. Galileo wanted to study and understand the earth's gravity. Edward Muybridge wanted to know if horses lifted all four hooves when they ran. Paige and Nick wanted to know how animals responded to scent.

If you have a curious mind and are willing to do some work to find the answers, you would make a good scientist. The scientific method is a tool you can use to find answers to questions and share what you learn with other scientists. Even if you don't become a professional scientist, you can still use the scientific method to find answers to common problems you face every day.
Go back to the last page in the lesson, the Dragonfly TV Do It page, and choose an experiment that interests you. If you are doing this WebLesson as part of a class activity, choose an experiment that you can do at school with materials in your classroom (Bag on a Stick is a good one). Read about the experiment, and then think of your own question about it. Following the steps of the scientific method, write your question, your observations, and your hypothesis. Explain what experiments you would do (or what you did do) to find an answer.
acceleration - to speed up, move faster
evidence - something that provides proof of a fact or hypothesis
inclined plane - a sloping ramp
interval - the amount of time between two events
misperception - incorrect understanding
objectively - based on evidence instead of opinion or personal bias
projectile - something thrown forward through the air
qualitative - based on subjective qualities: good, nice, beautiful
quantitative - based on objective data (numbers)
scat - animal poop
scent - something with a strong smell
sequentially - one after another
subjectively - based on opinion or personal bias instead of evidence
valid - a correct or proven hypothesis