The following introductory activities can set the tone for the school year by presenting an accurate and engaging perspective on what science is really about. These activities involve students in aspects of science in a simple and exploratory fashion. In order to further connect their activities to the process of science, each of the activities below can be followed by a discussion prompted by the questions: “What do you think scientists do when they study things? How is what you just did similar to what scientists do? How is what you just did different from what scientists do?”
- Mystery boxes are always intriguing and can be used at a variety of grade levels. Working in groups, students pose explanations (hypotheses) for what they are observing and are asked to test their hypotheses. The procedures provided here have been modified for 3rd-5th grade students from Mystery Boxes: Uncertainty and Collaboration by Jean Beard.
- Tennis shoe detectives — Students make observations, examine data, and form hypotheses about a set of footprints and what they can tell us. This activity provides a good opportunity to clarify the difference between the observations we make and our interpretations of those observations.
- Xenosmilus — Students play the roles of paleontologists on a dig. They “unearth” a few fossils at a time and attempt to reconstruct the animal the fossils represent. Working in groups, students pose explanations (hypotheses) for what they are observing and refine their explanations as further evidence is gathered.