A 10 Minute Introduction to Science For 7 Year Olds
I’ve been asked by my brother in-law to do him a favour and write a 10 minute introduction to science for his 1st graders. I know, I’m not a scientist, but he asked me because he thinks I have a firm grasp of what science is and it isn’t, and also that I am a good communicator. Well, I’m not sure about any of those claims, but I’ll sure as hell give it a shot. The topic he most wants to cover is that of “The Scientific Method”, what it is, what it means, and how to use it, and I have a couple of ideas that might just work. The only trouble is, how do I angle it so that 7 year olds will understand it, and not get bored? This is going to prove to be difficult.
So with this in mind, I’m going to use this blog entry as a sounding board, and put in blockquotes the things I might present to these kids. My mission is to get some feedback from you guys as to whether it’s good communication, whether it’s actually factual, and, well, whether it totally sucks ass.
You up for it? Good.
So to start with, I’d need to tell the kids what science is all about. They Might Be Giants did a great job of explaining it in their album “Here Comes Science“, but I think even that is too advanced. So for my definition of science I came up with this as a starter:
Right well that’s not bad. Now, how does science work? Let’s see… The scientific method works like this (from Wikipedia):
2. Form a conjecture: When nothing else is yet known, try to state an explanation, to someone else, or to your notebook.
3. Deduce a prediction from that explanation: If you assume 2 is true, what consequences follow?
4. Test: Look for the opposite of each consequence in order to disprove 2. It is a logical error to seek 3 directly as proof of 2. This error is called affirming the consequent.
All well and good, but why would anyone want to use science?
Well, there are lots of reasons. With science we have discovered how to make cars, boats, aeroplanes and rocketships. We’ve made computers and robots. We’ve developed life-saving medicines, and yummy food that we eat every day. The electricity that makes the lights go on, and the radio-waves that brings the television pictures to your home. All of these things and many many more came from using science and a thing called The Scientific Method.”
Yep I think that’s good. Now for the scientific method, how can I simplify that? Let’s try this:
- Start with a problem or question. For instance, if you find something in a forest, you ask ‘What is this?’
- Look at what you have, and make some notes about it. From these notes, try to tell what it is you have found. ‘It is green and flat. It’s not breathing. I think it might be a leaf.’
- If your notes are correct, what can you say about it that should be true? ‘If it’s a leaf, then it came from a tree. I should be able to see some of these leaves on a tree near here.”
- If what you found out is right, then you have identified your object ‘There are leaves like this in the tree above me, this is definitely a leaf.’ - OR - If not, you need to go back to step 2 and find a different explanation for what you have found. ‘There are no trees around me, so this must be something else, what could it be?’”
The Scientific Method can be applied to any time you want to find the answer to a question you might have, from “Why is the sky blue?” to “Why does a cork float in water?”
OK that’s not bad, what do you think? Now I think we need an experiment or two to show how this works. I was thinking maybe an experiment in taxonomy, a simple identification and sorting would do. Involving a cat.
An example of a plant is a tree. An example of an animal is a dog. An example of a mineral is a rock.
Here is a picture of a cat. Now using what you already know about the world, would you say a cat is:
A. a plant
B. an animal or
C. a mineral?
Look at the cat. What are some things you can see about that cat to help you make your decision. It has fur, it has four legs, it has a tail and it has a cute kitty face. To plants have fur? No. Do rocks have legs or a tail? No. So the answer must be ‘A cat is an animal.‘”
What do you think of that? Now let’s up the ante a bit.
Look again at this cat. like we saw before it has fur, legs, a tail and a cute kitty face.
Next to the cat is a lion (rawr!), a snake (hisss!) and a tiger (rawr!). What do these animals have in common? What makes them different from each other? Well, the cat, the lion and the tiger all have legs, they all have fur, they all have faces. The snake has a tail and a face too, but it has no fur (it has scales) and it has no legs. Which of these is different from the others? Of course, the snake is different (it is a reptile), and all the others are cats! (The lion and the tiger are just very big cats.)”
Okay I think that’s a good start in taxonomy, do I need to go further? There is so much more to cover, but I think the kids might get bored if we go any deeper into classification. might be worthwhile telling the kids some really big numbers before I go on right? Ok, let’s try to get their attention with this.
10,000,000 species of animal
4000 types of mineral
250,000 types of plant
WOW that sure is a lot of different types of things isn’t it? But sorting things is only part of science. A lot of science happens in the form of experiments.
Here’s a simple experiment you can try:
Fill a bucket with water. Taking a cork and a rock, drop them both into the bucket. What happens?”
You can see what I’m getting at here. This is an experiment in density and mass, but we’ll just call it weight.
What would happen now, if I dropped in a rubber duck? What about a piece of fruit like an apple? What about an empty water bottle?”
So we’ve done the experiment, the kids are learning about relative properties of materials, then I guess I just need to make it practical.
With our water, cork and rock experiment, we learned about weight and density. How can we make use of what we’ve discovered? Well we could make a boat, and sail to the other side of the world! If we know what materials float, we can make a boat using these, and be pretty sure when we are finished that the boat will float on the water.”
I think this is about 10 minutes. I hope my brother-in-law only uses these as ways to spark ideas. He has other topics he’d like to cover, but this should be helpful for him. I feel like I should finish this off better, but I’m not sure how.
What are your thoughts? How can I improve this? Please leave your comments below.