Day 12: Problem Identification

Today in Science 8 we debriefed our starch packing peanut experiments. I was actually quite surprised at how quickly the students picked up on the errors of our experiments.  Students identified that:

  1. different peanuts had different masses
  2. water temperatures were not controlled well enough
  3. Stir rates were not controlled well enough
  4. How the floating peanut was dunked was not controlled

Furthermore, students were able to come up with solutions to the problems.  Generally they suggested doing more demonstrations, having someone specialize in a particular step or procedure, and the use of pictures and videos for setting standards.  Many of these things are tools that we use for QC in engineering.

As with all group discussions, just because one student offered up a good answer doesn’t mean that all students had the same idea. However, I was very careful to elicit information from almost all students.  Usually there will be a few students that claim they don’t have anything to say.  For these kids, I give them ample pause time before letting them off the hook; however, I always tell them to keep thinking because I will come back to them.  Often these kids are eager with their hands in the air before I get a chance to ask them a second time!

Day 9: Brainstorming Peanuts

Today we worked on observations, by recording details of apples and then studying how a starch packing peanut dissolves in water.  This led to our next discussion about scientific methods: asking questions, and coming up with testable ideas.  What follows is a list of questions the students had about packing peanuts. With my help, they then decided on which questions were testable in our classroom (highlighted in green).


Of course, that we’re not going to test #1 is a major disappointment!  Next day’s plan is for the students to split up and devise an experimental plan to test one question (per group).  With these activities, we will go over experimental design and controls in an interesting and authentic way.