The Scientific Method for Second Graders
Science comes from the Latin root scio, meaning knowledge. Essentially, the study of science is a method of reasoning to learn more about the world around us rather than a collection of discrete facts or even principles, theories and laws. The scientific method is at the heart of the study of science, thus the scientific method should be at the center of any good science curriculum. The scientific method essentially has five steps:
  1. Observe.
  2. Form a hypothesis
  3. Predict.
  4. Test predictions.
  5. Repeat until there are no discrepancies between the hypothesis and the test results.

I add a sixth step, publish results. My daughter does this in the form of a lab report which outlines what she did in each step of the scientific process.

At the moment, my goal is to do two real scientific experiments per year with my daughter (7) where we go through the entire scientific method.

The rest of our scientific inquiry stays within the first three steps of the method and we let older, wiser scientists do the work for us. We observe some unique happening, rather by the spontaneous curiosity of one of the children or the careful planning of mom. Right now, we are focusing on habitats. Our data collection has told us that a habitat needs four elements: food, water, shelter and a place to raise young. Mouse and Bear both have their own habitats made out of old ice cream buckets (my daughter's is full of caterpillars in their cocoons and my son's is full of worms, rolly pollies and millipedes).

We also have made a backyard habitat for birds. We have water, food, plenty of bushes and trees, nesting boxes and even a tray of broken egg shells for them to use as grit. The problem is, we don't have any birds. So I asked my daughter some questions and encouraged her to form some hypothese about why the birds aren't coming to our habitat. Here is what she came up with:
  1. They all flew south.
  2. They aren't hungry.
  3. They are scared of the neighbor's dogs, which are in clear view of the feeders.
We then talked about ways to test each hypothesis. We aren't prepared for quite that kind of undertaking, but some simple observations helped narrow things down. Obviously, they haven't all flown south. Large flocks can be seen and heard...and sometimes they land in our yard. They just don't visit the feeders. A little reading showed us that this is south to a large number of birds and we should expect to see the dark-eyed juncos any day.

We weren't sure how to test the hunger of the birds, but it seems like they should be eating more in preparation for winter and migration.

Fear of the dogs seems like a good theory, but the dogs were there in the summer when we were consistent about filling our birdbath. We had lots of birds then.

We decided we needed more information, and set about peering across the fence to our other neighbor's yard. They have had their feeders out for years as opposed to weeks and once commented that they couldn't fill them fast enough for their visitors. But right now, their feeders don't seem much more active than ours.

Then, we found out something interesting. Fall can be the most difficult time to attract birds to feeders. Many regular visitors even leave at this time. It seems this is a peak time of year for natural food sources and birds are enjoying the banquet God has prepared for them. They are also flying around taking note of food supplies so they know where to find food over the winter.

By focusing on observing and inquiring, my daughter is getting a good foundation in science. The facts of the subject are a natural by-product of her studies, but are never the focus. I didn't set out to teach her about the migratory patterns of birds or the fall feeding habits of our local feeder birds. I didn't even know them, myself. But her observations gave rise to some questions and further inquiry led us to a possible explanation. And I think over the past few weeks she has learned more about birds and their habitats then I could have ever taught her using a more formalized textbook approach.

Related Tags: , , , , ,