Everyday life seems to get more and more complicated. New technology is being developed around the world at breakneck speed and our environment seems to mirror visions of the future from old movies more and more.
Have you ever stopped and asked yourself questions like, “How did we get here?” or, “How have we been able to uncover so much of our physical universe?” or, “How were we able to invent such amazing technology?”
Humans have been wandering this planet for the last couple hundred thousand years, and yet it wasn’t until just a few thousand years ago that things like mathematics, science, and technology began to shape our species into the most powerful, prolific, and adaptable species on earth. How did we get from simple hunter-gatherers that weren’t that much different from other animals on the planet to such a powerful and intelligent species? Well, the answer is incredibly long and complex, but at the very heart of it all is the concept of the scientific method.
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What Is the Scientific Method?
The scientific method is the name given to a way of thinking that has led to so many important discoveries in mankind’s development. At its heart, it is a simple six-step process for experimentation that can allow you to find answers to questions about the world around you. The steps are as follows:
Ask a question –
- Every scientific finding has begun with a question. Ask a question (how, what, which, why, where, or who) about something you would like to observe.
Do research –
- See what information you can find about the thing you are going to observe. Don’t trust everything you read. At this point, you just want to gather information that will inform your hypothesis and how to best create your own experiment.
Build your hypothesis –
- Based on the information you were able to find, make a prediction of what results you may find. A good hypothesis informs future scientists as to what you were looking for when you began your experiment.
Test your hypothesis –
- Conduct your experiment and document the results. Whether that is by written observations, photographs, or video footage, make sure you have a way of looking back on what happened during the experiment.
Draw your conclusions –
- Now that you have your data (the evidence we talked about above) analyze — or study — your observations and determine whether your hypothesis was correct.
Communicate your findings –
- This is the most important step in the scientific method. Find a way to document your findings and present them to the world! Without communication, scientific experiments don’t help anyone but yourself. By sharing your findings, you can become a part of the scientific community!
- Repeatability – Even if your experiment has been done before by someone else who had the exact same result, by sharing your results, you are strengthening the case made by the scientist before you. This is a very important part of the process because it shows that the original experiment was not just a fluke.
The Importance of Being Specific — Basic Egg Drop Example
The question you ask can be simple or complex, but you want to make sure that the question has a clear answer. For example, let’s say we want to find how high of a fall an egg survives before it breaks. While this sounds like a fun experiment to try, you want to make sure that your question is a bit more clear. Are you talking about chicken eggs, duck eggs, or platypus eggs? Are you going to drop it onto concrete, grass, or carpet?
It’s important to have as few variables — aspects of your experiment that can change — as possible. In this example we want our variable to be the height of the drop, so let’s try to make a testable question with only one variable:
“When dropped onto concrete, how high of a fall can a chicken egg survive before it cracks?”
Much better. Now that we have our question we would like to answer, let’s conduct some research.
You may look into what chicken eggshells are made of, or how fast an object is traveling when dropped from certain heights. Once you have collected enough information
Now you make an educated guess to answer your own question like, “The egg will crack when dropped from a height of one foot or higher.”
Now for the fun part. Grab some eggs and make sure they are all the same size and from the same source if possible. Grab a yardstick and start dropping eggs from higher and higher distances. Make sure to document your results. For an experiment like this, you could simply have a chart that shows how many eggs cracked from each height. Or you could record videos of each drop.
Once you have enough evidence, ask your question again and look at your hypothesis to see if you were correct. If not, how far off were you? Take time to analyze why you were wrong and whether there are any flaws in your results.
Share Your Results
Make sure that someone else knows what you did and what you discovered. Share your results with your friends and family or you can even post a youtube video.
The most important part of the scientific process is to always stay curious. While it may seem like every question in the world has already been answered by someone, there are limitless observations and discoveries we can make about our universe and about ourselves. To ensure that your child nurtures their curiosity, enroll them at Austin Kids Retreat. Contact us today to get more information about our child care services and STEM activities.