Time needed: 40 minutes
Scientists study nature to better understand how it works. They use what they learn to create solutions that help people, animals, and the environment. Scientists use a process called the scientific method to conduct research, solve problems, and learn new things.
One of the first steps of the scientific method is observation. Observation is watching and noticing something using all your senses, especially sight. It’s the start of every experiment and scientific discovery. Sometimes scientists observe what they thought they would. Other times they're surprised!
To get started, gather the listed materials and find a sibling, parent, or family member to be your partner.
Part 1: Practice observation.
For the first part of the activity, you’ll play a game to sharpen your observation skills.
First ask your partner to hide all the small items under the towel. Then, ask them to uncover the items.
After they remove the towel, spend 30 seconds observing the items.
Have your partner cover the items again. How many items you can remember?
Were you able to remember all the items? Brainstorm a few ways you could remember the items. For example, you could look at them longer or make a list.
Have your partner uncover the items for you to observe again. But this time, use your pencil and paper to make a list of the items.
After 30 seconds, have your partner cover the items. How many items you can remember? Were you able to remember more than the first time?
Do you think you would now notice when something changes? Have your partner lift the covering just enough to add or remove one item without you seeing.
Then have them uncover the items again for 30 seconds for you to observe. Make sure to write a list to help you remember!
After 30 seconds, have your partner cover the items. How many items you can remember this time? What was different? What was new or missing?
Repeat the game a few more times, having your partner add and remove items. After each round, see how many items you can remember. Can you remember them all? Can you notice what changes each time?
Part 2: Describe your observations.
Now it’s time to test your observation skills. Take a look at all the small items you have from nature and choose two.
If you were to describe one of the items to your partner, what would you say about it? What would you say about the other item? How would you describe the differences between the two?
Choose one item to describe to your partner, but don’t tell them which one! You can’t point to the item either. Write down everything you want to communicate about your item on a notecard or piece of paper.
Remember: some of the items are similar, so it's important to write as many details as you can to help your partner guess which item you chose.
When you think your description is ready, give it to your partner to see if they can guess which item you’re describing.
If they guess incorrectly, go back and review your description, adding new details to help your partner guess the correct item.
After your partner correctly guesses the item, choose a new item and play again!
Part 3: Make scientific observations.
Pretend you’re a scientist observing the space around you. What’s one observation you’d make? Is the space big or small? If you’re in a room, what color are the walls? What furniture is there?
The things a scientist can observe are endless! Scientists make many different types of observations. They note how many things there are and details about each. For example, how many people are in the space around you? That's a scientific observation!
Now imagine someone is describing a cat. They say to you, “The cat is black.” They also say, “The cat looks scary.” Which observation is scientific?
The cat is black is a scientific observation because it gives information about the cat. It doesn’t include any personal feelings or opinions. “The cat looks scary," is giving an opinion. Scientific observations can’t include personal feelings or opinions, so “The cat looks scary” is not a scientific observation.
Think about some of the observations you just made about the room. Were they scientific? Did they include any of your personal feelings or opinions?
Then choose one thing, like a plant or chair, in your room, and write down lots of observations about it and the other objects around it. Remember: great observations include lots of details! Make sure to make scientific observations only about the object.
After a couple minutes, move on to observe something else.
And that’s it! You just made scientific observations, like a scientist. The next time you’re observing something, remember to look at the object from different angles. Go close and look for the tiny details. Then step back and think about how the object you're observing fits into everything around it; this will help you to learn something new!
You’ve now completed part of the Junior Think Like a Citizen Scientist Journey! If you had fun doing this, you might want to learn more about the scientific method, participate in a citizen science project, or take action with the rest of the Junior Think Like a Citizen Scientist Journey.
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