I will have to admit, hearing the words “scientific method” does not get me super excited. In fact, I hate teaching the scientific method. I feel like by the time they have gotten to high school, they are completely over the scientific method and they have learned it 100 times. Although I am a little anti-scientific method lesson, I do realize that it is important for students to understand the process of the scientific method since I am going to ask them to do it on an almost daily basis.
So, instead of doing the typical PowerPoint and SpongeBob worksheets, I do the most fun lab in the history of all labs… we make bouncy balls! Now, I know you are thinking that is the worst idea you have ever heard, but given some basic ground rules, it ends up being a really fun lab and the students come out of it with a better understanding of the scientific method.
How the lab works:
Students work in groups of 3 or 4 and compete to have the highest bouncing bouncy ball. Each team gets a budget and can do as many trials as they want as long as they stay under budget and the time limit. I give the students information explaining what the current bouncy ball product is made out of and they have to figure out how to make it better. They have access to various materials such as: water, borax, glue, paper cups, wooden stirrers, and plastic spoons. Each of these materials has a certain cost. They also are charged for renting a lab station, balance, and graduated cylinder. Then I let them loose to brainstorm and come up with recipes and they have to come to the front of the classroom and test how high it bounces. I always keep a scoreboard up front so everyone knows which group is in the lead and I usually reward the winning team with a few extra credit points on their first test. (A little healthy competition for motivation.)
At the end of the lab, the students have to answer questions where they pick out the different parts of the scientific method they used. They end up seeing that they used every part of the scientific method and they LOVE it.
I used to only do this lab with my chemistry classes, but now I do it with all of my classes on the first week of school. It is a great way to review the scientific method and to set some expectations for group work.
I think this lab could be used for any grade level! (Who doesn’t love bouncy balls??)
- For an elementary classroom, this lab could be used to show when reactions happen, the end result doesn’t always look like what you originally started with.
- For a middle school classroom, this lab could be used to explain the scientific method. Instead of having the students explain how they used the scientific method during the lab, you could have class discussion about he steps that each group have to take to do the lab. This discussion could lead into notes on the scientific method.