This is a fun activity to get students thinking about how scientific discovery utilizes various pieces of information almost like working on a puzzle. The “puzzle pieces” are used to develop testable hypotheses and from there, scientific theories! A scientific theory attempts to explain observed phenomena in the natural world.
I preface this activity by asking the class what they know about scientific theories and scientific laws. Then, I informally poll the class with the question: can a scientific theory become a scientific law? Most students say yes with the explanation that if a theory is proved enough times, it can become a law (This is not true! But don’t tell them that yet!)
In the first activity of this lesson, a short "story" is written as one word per card...cards are cut apart and mixed up and students do not know what any of them say (Print the cards… laminate them if possible…cut them apart…put sets into plastic baggies or clip them together.) They follow the directions to flip over certain numbers of cards and write theories about what the story is about. They eventually share with other groups and discuss whether and why their theories were different from one another. They draw pictures of their final theory (great classroom decor!).
I have my students work in groups of 3, and to really drill home the point, I assign each group a country name (U.S., France, China, Germany, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, etc.) and refer to the names during the activity (for example: “Ok, Germany– what is your current theory?). This reinforces that scientists all over the world share their ideas in order to make advancements in the field.
For the second part of this activity, each student group will need a tennis ball. A repetitive test with repeatable, consistent results illustrates the concept of scientific law. These two activities together are an excellent lesson to differentiate between scientific theory and scientific law.
Students like this activity and they come away understanding "the point". You can assess this from their answers to the analysis questions. This is a nice activity to include in a unit about science process skills and the scientific method.
While developing your students' science process skills, you may also be interested in my Copy Cat Procedure Writing Activity
This is also a great activity to use before my Atomic Theory Timeline Project
Thanks for looking!