How to Use the Scientific Method Across the Curriculum
Process of the Scientific Method
In order to be able to incorporate the scientific method across the curriculum, it must first be understood. The process itself is a simple way to organize the discovery of knowledge. First, students must decide what their question/problem is so that they know what information or new learning they wish to acquire. Then they must figure out what materials they need. Afterward, they must discuss the procedure they will use, step by step, to reach their answers. After the procedure, they should be able to show the data and/or results of what they have discovered. Finally, they will draw conclusions from their data and results.
Scientific Method in Math
Math, where conceptual learning can be gained through discovery, is also highly adaptive for the scientific method. If you want students to come to a conclusion on their own, allow them to find it through the scientific method. For example, if you need students to discover that solid structures require strong bases, either larger than their peak or equal in size to be sturdy and strong, you can allow them to come to this understanding on their own by building a structure of their own design. Here is an example:
Problem: What shapes can form the base of a pyramid?
Hypothesis: Allow students to tell what they think will work.
Materials: Toothpicks, marshmallows
1. Connect toothpicks together using marshmallows.
2. Use these connections to build a pyramid.
3. Observe to make sure pyramids can stand.
4. See which shapes can successfully be used as the base for a pyramid.
Data/Results: Use photos or actual models of successful pyramids to display for students.
Conclusion: Triangles and squares can form the base of a pyramid.
Using this method, the students will come to their own conclusions about structures and support systems. Other concepts can be taught in this way as well, such as concepts of capacity and design.
Scientific Method in Social Studies
The scientific method can be applied to social studies, by helping students synthesize what they've learned about certain topics or events in order to conduct social experiments. The subject of social studies allows for opportunities to conduct surveys for student research about current events ( i.e. the recent immigration debate, which is a historical subject taught to fourth graders as outlined in the Texas Education Knowledge and Skills or TEKS).
Take the example of using a survey. Students are studying immigration and would like to find out what percentage of their own student body is made up of second generation immigrants/Americans. They also might want to know the number of students born to immigrant parents, in order to determine what percentage of their own population would be greatly affected by changes to immigration laws.
Problem: What percent of _(school)_ elementary students are children of immigrants?
Hypothesis: Allow students to guess based on their school experience and previous knowledge gained.
Materials: Surveys, pencils, paper, clipboards, tape recorder (optional)
1. Students will create an open-ended survey asking about student backgrounds.
2. Students will determine how many students they will survey.
3. Students will set up a time and date to conduct their surveys.
4. Students will conduct their surveys and review their results.
We interviewed 100 students. We determined through our surveys that 43% of our student body are second generation Americans.
Because our school has a high population of students whose families immigrated one or two generations ago, or are recent immigrants themselves, changes to immigration laws would greatly affect our school and community.
Students could describe how their community would be affected by the loss of these community members or by a great increase of more immigrants into the community. Students could also discuss the contributions of these community members and how they enrich their local community.
Scientific Method in Science
When teaching science, be sure to allow students to develop and take ownership of their own learning by drawing their own conclusions about concepts through experiments as much as possible. Instead of telling kindergarteners, for example, that objects change, allow them to experiment. Bring ice, popsicles, or other cold materials and allow them to observe what happens when they get warm, or even refreeze them to allow for further study. If you live in a cold climate, allow them to catch snowflakes on paper to see what happens when they return to the warm classroom. Children are natural scientists, so allowing them to foster their curiosity through experiments will only make their love for science grow.
Try this experiment, incorporating the scientific method:
Problem/Question: Which seeds grow better without soil? (give a few options)
*beans, bell peppers, and radish seeds will sprout without dirt.
**by grow, I mean at least sprouting, not necessarily reaching plant adulthood.
Hypothesis: Let them make an educated guess.
Materials: Sandwich bags, paper towels, seeds, water, pencils, paper
1. Place seeds in a wet paper towel.
2. Fold up paper towel and place it in sandwich bag.
3. Place it where the seed will get sunlight.
4. Observe and record which seeds grow best without dirt.
Data/Results: Students can graph and measure (also incorporating math skills), which ones grew the best.
Conclusion: Determine which ones grew better and why and follow up with class discussion.
Integrating the scientific method across the curriculum is a great way to organize student learning in any subject, as it helps them simply outline what their learning goals are in a subject and how they can reach their goals to gain new knowledge and insight.