Laney Lee

Scientific Method Teaching Strategies x Uncategorized

Middle School Lesson Ideas for Teaching The Scientific Method

It doesn’t seem to matter what science discipline you teach, at some point or another, a unit dedicated to the “scientific method” is bound to make an appearance in your curriculum. It is, after all, the backbone of all scientific research and discovery. If you are planning to cover the scientific method with your science classes this school year, here are a few of my favorite middle school lesson ideas for teaching the scientific method!

First…the basics!

When it comes to middle school lesson ideas for teaching the scientific method, it can be helpful to start with a content overview. In other words, begin by introducing your middle school students to important vocabulary and concepts that will be unpacked in greater detail through science activities or a fun experiment.

There are five main steps of the scientific method:

  1. Define a question to investigate.
  2. Make a good hypothesis.
  3. Collect data through a scientific experiment.
  4. Take time for data analysis.
  5. Draw conclusions based on the results of the experiment.

It doesn’t matter what topic or discipline the science experiment is focused on, every quality research experiment follows these same five scientific method steps. These steps can be introduced in a variety of ways. You may choose to use Google slides or powerpoint presentations paired with a good class discussion to introduce each step of the scientific method. Personally, I find this format particularly helpful for introducing new concepts and vocabulary.

You can check out the Google slides I use with my own students here:

After our first introductory lesson, I like to deepen my students’ knowledge of the scientific method using a guided reading activity. For this activity, students are able to work independently, with partners, or in small groups to read the text and answer the accompanying questions. The text itself is detailed, yet easy to read, and the questions are designed to be rigorous – requiring students to use their critical thinking skills such as predicting and connecting information.

As science teachers, we know that knowledge of the scientific method isn’t sufficient on it’s own. Sure, it’s great if our students can identify each part of the scientific method, but this new information becomes truly impactful when students can apply these steps through scientific inquiry activities. This is how to truly cultivate a love of science!

Scientific Method Activities

No scientific method unit would be complete without a handful of fun lesson activities and experiments. These lesson plans should be designed to give students the opportunity to work through and apply each of the five basic steps of the scientific method. If you’re looking for some good activity suggestions, here are a few of my favorite middle school lesson ideas for teaching the scientific method:

Create Paper Airplanes

For this scientific method lesson plan, I instruct my students to create their own paper airplane. As we discuss each step of the scientific method, they practice applying that step with their own paper airplane experiment. This includes creating their own scientific questions to investigate, conducting their experiment, and data collection and analysis. Not only is this a great way to practically apply the scientific method steps, it’s a fun (not to mention easy) activity for everyone to enjoy!

Bubble Blowing Lab

In this bubble lab activity, students will work with a partner to investigate which brand of bubbles produces the largest bubbles. Following the steps outlined in the lab, students will take turns blowing bubbles and will make observations by measuring the diameter of each popped bubble. After completing their experiment, students will have the opportunity to share the results of their experiments with the entire class. For this activity, students will need:

  • Several different brands of bubbles (at least 3-4)
  • Paper towels
  • Ruler/Measuring Tape
  • Student notebook to record data

Why Flamingos Are Pink

In this Mystery Science inquiry lesson, students will be given the opportunity to practice asking good questions as they learn how some animals develop their unique colors. This lesson requires no prep and has a digital version that is compatible with Google Classroom. If you’re looking for an easy and fun way to boost your scientific method unit plans, this is it!

Penny Lab

When it comes to teaching the scientific method, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more “tried and true” lesson activity than the penny lab. For this activity, students will be investigating how many drops of water can fit on one side o a penny. As the experiment is focused on such a small object, I recommend having students work in smaller groups – ideally just a single lab partner. Students will apply their science process skills by first identifying their hypothesis before conducting the experiment twice (first with a control group and second with a test group.)

To complete this lab, student groups will need the following materials:

  • One penny
  • One eye dropper
  • Pair of tweezers
  • Sample testing liquid (soap)
  • Clean water
  • Plenty of paper towels

Paper Towel Lab

Have you ever wondered if Bounty really IS the “quicker picker upper?!” Well, now your middle schoolers can find out for you! In this activity, students will be comparing the absorbency of different paper towel brands. In order to conduct the paper towel experiment, students will need:

  • At least four brands of paper towels
  • A beaker
  • A graduated cylinder
  • A stopwatch
  • A funnel

Using these supplies, students will insert a paper towel sheet into 200 ml of water for 20 seconds. After the allotted time, they will squeeze as much water as they can from the towel into the graduated cylinder to measure the total amount of water absorbed by the towel. They will repeat this process with each brand of paper towels.

Mentos & Diet Coke Demonstration

We’ve probably all seen the explosive demonstration of dropping Mentos into a Diet Coke. This fun scientific method demonstration is a fun twist on that classic demonstration. For this experiment, students will be investigating whether the temperature of the Diet Coke impacts it’s reactivity with the Mentos. For this activity, I prep three Diet Cokes:

  • Cold (in an ice bath)
  • Hot (in a hot water water bath)
  • Room temperature

We then drop the Mentos into each Diet Coke, measure both the temperature of the liquid and the height of the soda stream. Students will use this information to graph the data from each of my class periods. This lab is a BLAST (literally and figuratively.)

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