Help teach Boy Scouts about the scientific method.
September 21, 2009 11:02 AM   Subscribe

Looking for ideas to help kids (2nd graders) learn the scientific method in a hands on way.

A friend of mine is a cub scout leader, and the kids are set to earn the "Science Belt Loop." One of the requirements is to "Use the scientific method in a simple science project Explain the results to an adult." Any ideas for an experiment to set up for the kids that offers a good chance for them to work out the problem on their own? Whatever the experiment is the scout leader will provide all of the preparatory instruction, but wants something 'neat' that offers a good opportunity for the kids to figure out what tests need to be run, to run those tests, and then to draw conclusions. Also due to their age (2nd graders) it should be setup so that if the proper tests are done the answers wont be too ambiguous. Due to the openness of the requirement it can get a little in-depth (as necessary) into whichever field of science the experiment deals with (physics, chemistry, etc).
posted by Doug to Science & Nature (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The paper towel test is an oldie-but-goodie. Here's a very simple one.
posted by sachinag at 11:04 AM on September 21, 2009

Does it have to be over say an hour or can it be longer? I have worked with that age group in a 6 to 10 week long program and I did planting... plants. They all know the important things in plant growing: soil, water, sunlight. So you set up some different conditions, and talk about the importance of controls (e.g., each pot has to have the same # of seeds), and track them (measure height and # of sprouts and whatnot) over the course of a couple months to determine like whether watering every day works better than watering twice a week or whatever. You can also then talk about that it was specific to this plant...

That's my favorite, but if it has to be contained in like 2 hours say that, I can remember some other stuff we did.
posted by brainmouse at 11:06 AM on September 21, 2009

Best answer: "Science for all seasons" is a book that I loved with dozens of experiments for that age group. Probably at a local library.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 11:06 AM on September 21, 2009

Letter frequency would be a pretty easy experiment to set up. Poll the kids and ask them what they think the most common letter is. Test the theory by counting letters in some block of text. Make a graph to show the results, then contrast with the theory.

Actually, maybe that's sort of dull. You could do it with 'frequency of colors' in a bag of M&Ms or jellybeans, too. They can eat them when they're done, which makes for easy clean-up, a key part of any den meeting.
posted by jquinby at 11:10 AM on September 21, 2009

Ah -- did the frequency of colors in bags of M&Ms with 6th graders once, went over well.
posted by brainmouse at 11:15 AM on September 21, 2009

Best answer: Animal behavior stuff is great for this age group. A classic is the pill bug project. Essentially, have the kids go out and collect pill bugs (also called roly polys or woodlice), paying attention to where they find them. What does that say about their preferred environment? Can they test that? For example, if you put the pillbugs on the border of a wet and a dry environment (i.e., a damp and a dry piece of construction paper), which do they choose? Introduce the idea of variables to that: are the two pieces of construction paper the same color? Introduce the idea of significance: if they do it 3 times, do they get the same result each time?

I've done this with kids ranging from grades 1 to 4, and it's always a big hit. Let them watch the pill bugs for a while and then come up with their own questions to test. It also gives you the chance to talk about respecting these animals, and why it's important to only do experiments that won't hurt them.
posted by amelioration at 11:52 AM on September 21, 2009

Does the local pack do a pinewood derby? Why not get a couple kits and and have the kids brainstorm about what kinds of things would make a car faster or slower and come up with ways that they can test their ideas out.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:11 PM on September 21, 2009

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