Using the scientific method is essential for kids to learn about the world around them.  Kids love playing. Most kinds of play involve making guesses, trying to see if those guesses are right and trying again if you fail.  Playing is science.  Try 2 easy experiments you can do with your kids that are fun and help them understand the scientific method.

Kids in the primary grades are pumped for hands on activities in science.  Their minds are like sponges ready to take in all kinds of information, especially when they can play. Korwin and Jones in their 1990 study, Do Hands-On, Technology-Based Activities Enhance Learning by Reinforcing Cognitive Knowledge and Retention?, determined the following:

The results suggest that hands-on activities enhance cognitive learning.

The results also suggest that technology education has a strong basis in learning theory in its use of hands-on activities to relate technological concepts. This is done in part by improving short and long term memory retention of information through greater use of visual, auditory, tactile, and motor memory storage areas of the brain.

Using the Scientific Method with Hands-on Learning

Using the scientific method is a really important skill to learn so kids can make sense of the world around them. Click To Tweet

What better place than science to get hands on education.  Science experiments are not only hands on.  Using the scientific method while experimenting teaches so many skills:

  • It teaches reading skills.
  • Experimenting teaches patience.  The experiment will often not work well the first time…sometimes the second and third times as well.
  • Organization skills are challenged as data must be presented in tables and sometimes graphs.
  • Math skills are learned in science experimenting because adding, subtracting and multiplication are often important when collecting data.  In higher levels, you need to figure out if your results are statistically significant.  Statistics is math.
understanding the scientific method by playing with blocks

Image by Design_Miss_C from Pixabay

How Do Kids Learn While Playing?

Early years education works best when kids can use their hands, get dirty and play.  In Ontario, Canada, the Kindergarten program is a play based program.  Kids learn by playing.  What are they playing with?  Blocks for one.  Big ones and small ones are used for building structures.  Kids learn when their tower falls over that they need to place blocks differently so it doesn’t fall over.  Without knowing it, the kids are testing hypotheses.

Puzzles also encourage kids to use the scientific method.  They need to look at the pieces, noting their shapes and figure out which ones fit together.  They test their “hypothesis” by trying to fit two pieces together.  If they guess wrong then they try again.  They use the picture on the puzzle box as their background information to help with deciding which pieces have the best chance to fit together.

The sand table, the water table.  These are also tools for learning.  But the kids think they’re just playing.  Learning while having fun…who thought that was possible?

understanding the scientific method by doing puzzles

Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

Two Simple Experiments to Practice Using the Scientific Method

Here are two very simple science experiments.  You won’t need to look far to find the materials needed.  These activities are suitable for Kindergarten aged kids and older.  For older kids, you could really expand on the basic experiments and take them much further.

Water on a Penny Experiment

This experiment requires only 4 things:

  • penny or another coin
  • water dropper
  • water
  • small hand lens

The object of this experiment is to predict how many drops of water will stay on the surface of the coin without spilling off.  The child learns about the concepts of adhesion, cohesion and surface tension while doing this fun activity.

Cohesion is the attraction of molecules to each other.  In this experiment, water molecules stick to each other.  The ones at the very surface of the drop stick to the ones on all 3 sides and form surface tension.  Kids have seen ‘water striders’ skate on the surface of water.  Those bugs are able to do that because of cohesion and the resulting surface tension.

Water drops stick together because of cohesion.

Water drops stick to each other because of cohesion.
Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

Adhesion is the attraction of molecules to other kinds of molecules.  The water drop is able to stay on the penny as it grows because water molecules are sticking to the surface of the penny.

Adhesion lets the water drop stick to the leaf.

The water drop sticks to the leaf because of adhesion.
Image by DerWeg from Pixabay

Gravity plays a role in this experiment as well.  Eventually the drop will get too big.  The gravity pushing on the drop will become more powerful than the cohesion forces between the water molecules.  Then all the water spills off of the penny.

If you want the complete method for this activity as well as worksheets for your kids to complete while they’re doing the experiment join my newsletter using the form below.  You’ll get access to the worksheet with the password to my FREE resource library.

Transfer of Energy Experiment

Kids who love fast moving objects will love this experiment.  You need easy to find materials:

  • five marbles all the same size
  • a ruler with a groove down the middle

You see it right…only 2 materials.  In this experiment, the kids are learning about potential and kinetic energy.  Potential energy (PE) is stored energy that can be changed into other forms of energy…like kinetic energy.  Kinetic energy (KE) is the energy of movement.

A ball at the top of a hill has potential energy.  The taller the hill, the more potential energy it has.  When the ball rolls down that hill, the potential energy it has is gradually changed into kinetic energy as it is rolling.

A ball just before it falls from a high place has potential energy.
Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

An object has a specific amount of PE.  So there is only so much KE that you can get from that potential energy.

In this experiment, kids will flick first one marble, then two marbles at three marbles in the groove near the end of the ruler.  The kids predict how many marbles will be ‘kicked’ away when the marbles collide.

Here’s the gist of the experiment:

Flicking the marbles gives them potential energy.  Two marbles have more potential energy than one marble.  Each marble gains enough kinetic energy to push away one marble.  One marble flicked, therefore, can push away one marble.  Two marbles flicked can push away 2.

If you want the complete method for this activity as well as worksheets for your kids to complete while they’re doing the experiment join my newsletter using the form above.  You’ll get access to the worksheet with the password to my FREE resource library.

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