for the Journey North Teacher
Science Investigations Links
of the questions asked by student and professional scientists lend
themselves to systematic investigations. But questions often need
to be reworded so they can actually be tested. Here are some strategies
for shaping questions at different grade levels:
the early primary grades, you can help shape youngsters' "wonderings"
so they can "try out" an idea (e.g., Can we grow bulbs in water?)
students mature, you'll need to help them refine their questions
so they are clear and able to be investigated with available resources.
A simple way to help students write testable questions is to use
the stem, What would happen if....?
fourth or fifth grade and beyond, you can help students refine questions
so they lead to "fair
tests." (investigations in which everything is kept constant
except one variable). These types of questions should imply what
you'll need to do to answer them or what comparisons or measurements
will be made, for instance, Will tulips sprout earlier if we grow
them in soil with compost or in regular soil?
Fair Test Is . . .
make sure an investigation is a fair test, you need to keep
everything constant except the variable you're testing. Take
the question, Will tulips sprout earlier if we grow them
in compost or in regular soil? Students might plant one
tulip in each of six pots. Three pots will contain compost and
three will contain regular soil. Students must try to keep all
other variables - sunlight, moisture, type of bulb, planting
depth, and so on - constant. If they didn't - and planted some
bulbs deeper than others, for instance - they couldn't be sure
whether it was the soil type or bulb depth that made the difference.