The scientific method is a process that scientists use to ask questions and conduct investigations to find answers. It is important for your children to understand that the scientific method can also help them organize and plan their ideas and draw conclusions about the world around them. While the scientific method provides a standardized way for scientists to conduct their work, many scientists work according to other methodologies as well.
The first step of the scientific method is to ask a question. Scientists look at the world around them and pose questions. The second step is to form a hypothesis, or a prediction. Remind your children that when you predict, you use what you know to make an educated guess. Predictions draw from prior knowledge and experiences and children should connect and apply what they have learned.
After making a hypothesis, the next step is to plan an experiment. This entails writing down steps for an experiment that will answer the question. Remind students that good plans have short and clear steps. The plan should also include any materials that will be used in the experiment, including safety gear.
After scientists have gathered all the materials needed for the experiment, the next step is to do it! Remind students to pay careful attention to the experiment plan and follow it closely. As they conduct the experiment, scientists record data. Data is information gathered during the experiment. This can include observations and measurements. Recording data is an important part of the scientific method because it helps scientists organize their ideas and observations. Charts, graphs, lists, diagrams, and even sketches are all ways to record data during experiments.
After the completion of the experiment, the next step is to analyze the data and draw a conclusion. Scientists look at the information they gathered and observed and make connections to come to a conclusion. These conclusions may or may not be in agreement with their predictions. Remind students that scientists make incorrect predictions all the time, and an important part of the scientific process is to understand why predictions were incorrect. Many scientists will repeat an experiment several times to see if they can replicate the results before coming to a conclusion. This ensures that they have conducted the experiment the same way each time and make sure no introduced errors or outside factors affected the experiment’s outcome.
The last step of the scientific method is to share what you have learned.