Scientific research and inquiry is based on the power of observation. Our observations often lead to more questions. Our attempt to answer our questions based on our observations, past experience, knowledge and reasoning is an educated guess, or hypothesis.
To test to see if our hypothesis is true, we need to create an experiment or make more observations to gather more information. Once that is complete, we analyze our data from our observations to get our conclusion. Did our hypothesis hold true or do we now have another hypothesis?
This is the scientific method. Notice, it is based on observations. Without correct observations, the entire scientific method is compromised.
Teaching our students to observe is so important. Those powers of observation will come in handy throughout their lives – not just in science class. But how do we teach observation skills?
Memory Game – I remember playing this party game growing up. Place 15 or 20 small household items on a cookie sheet. Allow your kids to observe them for 30 seconds, then take the cookie sheet away. Have them list as many items on the cookie sheet as they can recall.
What is different? – Choose a room of the house where you and the kids spend a lot of time. Do an activity in the room unrelated to the observation lesson. Then, have them leave the room. Quickly, move pillows or a chair, bring something new into the room….make a change to the room. It can be large or subtle. Invite the kids back into the room and ask them what is different. Can they tell? Do the activity again, but this time give them a moment to observe the room before they leave and you do your rearranging. Was there a change in the kids’ observation skills?
Journaling is a great way for students to record their observations and build their observation skills. Whether they are recording a science experiment or a walk in the woods. Older students can write down their observations and younger students can draw theirs. It can be fun to keep a notebook dedicated to observations. Let the students decorate it and make it their own.
Sometimes, students need a little guidance when it comes to making good observations. Worksheets, such as this printable Nature Observation Notebook, can help. These particular worksheets ask questions about various aspects of nature to spark good observations. Such worksheets can be found or created for any observational study.
Creating Observation Opportunities
Try to work some of these fun observation projects into your schedule this week. You might want to go somewhere new so the kids have lots to observe, or you can challenge them to find something new or look at something in a new way in their everyday environment.