This activity will help guide your students through the experimental design process by providing background information about the important components of writing testable questions, defining variables, writing a hypothesis, choosing a sample size, designing a procedure, and identifying possible sources of error. Let your students have fun thinking of ways to support or refute some superstitions and Old Wives’ Tales!
The lesson plan begins with a class engagement activity for which students will view a 4 minute YouTube video that shows 5 interesting physical science phenomena. They will write their ideas about why the phenomena happens and devise a quick test they could perform to differentiate between their idea and someone else's. Then, they will watch a second video clip that actually provides explanations of the phenomena (a real example of how experimental design can be used in everyday life!). Next, students will work through information and practice sections for writing testable questions, defining variables, writing a hypothesis, deciding on a sample size, and writing a procedure. Finally, students will design an experiment to test the validity behind one of the provided superstitions (or they may want to choose their own). They won't actually be carrying out their experiment (because it will likely involve time, subjects, or weather events that are not possible to obtain in the moment!), but they will write a basic outline of the experiment that could hypothetically be carried out by someone else at some future point in time.
The second part of the assessment is a peer-editing assignment. Students will swap their superstition experiments and peer-edit someone else's. The detailed peer-editing rubric asks students to look for evidence that their peer has written a testable question, defined their variables, written a hypothesis, choose an appropriate sample size, designed a procedure that could be followed by someone else, and identified possible sources of error.
This lesson/assessment supports NGSS Science & Engineering Practice: Planning & Carrying Out Investigations (Plan and conduct an investigation individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, and in the design: decide on types, how much, and accuracy of data needed to produce reliable measurements and consider limitations on the precision of the data (e.g., number of trials, cost, risk, time), and refine the design accordingly; Collect data to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence to answer scientific questions or test design solutions under a range of conditions.)
You may also be interested in these resources:
Experimental Design & Scientific Method Cornell Doodle Notes and Powerpoint
Scientific Procedure Writing Practice Using Building Blocks
Graphing Great Whites Data Analysis and Graphing Project
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