Discovering the Scientific Method

What is science according to the 8th grade?

This over-arching question was presented to all 64 members of Chapin’s Class 8 as part of their recent scientific study. Using Google Slides, each student crafted a colorful and engaging slide to explain how they interpret science. Students had few constraints and could use text, images, quotes, or a combination of design elements to display their thoughts.

After all slides were submitted, they were compiled into one Google presentation for the Class to view. Students worked in pairs to make hypotheses, or educated guesses, about what their classmates would choose to include on their slides. These predictions included: there would be more use of words than photos, the word ‘discovery’ would appear on almost all slides, and photos of famous scientists would be utilized more often than not.

Partners zoomed together to film a presentation of their experiment and hypotheses, highlight their finding, and discuss what was surprising. For example, one pair used a pie chart to show they had been incorrect in their prediction that most students would opt to display photos of famous scientists. They discovered only 13 (20.3%) students did and 51 (79.7%) did not.

On October 15, students convened via Zoom for a dissection of the project and its main objective – understanding the Scientific Method.

Science teacher Dr. Prasad Akavoor led the afternoon session. He asked, “How do we begin [the Scientific Method]? You ask yourself a question and make a prediction, but hypotheses could be wrong, so what do you do?”

One student volunteered that you can revise your hypothesis and collect further data. Dr. Akavoor nodded and encouraged students to explain the other key pieces of this method. Another student explained that “to be accurate, you need multiple measurements so you can find the average.”

“Correct. There are 64 slides, you can’t rely on just one.” Dr. Akavoor noted.

“We all interpret data differently,” added another student. Dr. Akavoor nodded and began to relate the student’s statement to news anchors. He explained that by watching different stations covering the same story, one could still get different impressions of what happened.

“This is called bias. It happens in science all the time. What kind of bias did we encounter in our project?”

The students offered thoughtful answers including the fact that only Chapin students – who live similar lives and have had the same education since Kindergarten – answered the prompt. They discussed how the field is still dominated by white males which can heavily influence biases. “We need more people of color and women,” said one student.

As the discussion neared its end, Dr. Akavoor asked students what they learned through this project.

“How to use Google sheets!” exclaimed one student. “And how to do calculations to find an average.”

“It enforced the scientific method with clear steps. It was nice to practice without a complicated experiment. We got to focus on the process,” shared another.

A third commented, “I liked that we got to self-execute with this project, choosing data to analyze on our own.”

Dr. Akavoor nodded, “These are techniques that professional scientists and technicians use!” He continued to compliment his class, praising the strong work habits and skills they learned in Middle School and have been utilizing this year. With this writer, he shared, “They’re all very independent. I’m proud of them.”