I’ve been working with my grade 6 class on the design of science experiments. The goal is that they can state a research question, choose appropriate independent/dependent variables, and outline a procedure. This is a challenging task for students of this developmental level — in Piagetian terms, they are sliding into the formal operational stage. Designing an experiment like this is heavy on abstract thought, so plenty of scaffolding is needed.

Today, I had the students do a straightforward lab: loading mass onto a spring and measuring the length of the spring. By the end of the class, each student was able to articulate something like, “adding more mass makes the spring stretch more.”

However, the underlying goal is to get the students to work with independent and dependent variables directly, and to record their data onto a neat table. This experiment, as well as the water absorbency of soil lab we’ll do on Friday, will provide fodder for discussion next week.