Class time: 1-2 class periods.
Purpose: To help students discover a research question that interests them and walk them through developing a testable hypothesis using Science News as a resource for generating ideas.
Notes to the teacher: You can go into as much or as little detail as you have time for.
You may want to open your discussion by having your students explore these videos and blogs created by Science News for Students on developing and testing a research question: DIY Science: Snot Science, Cookie Science: A bit about butter and Cookie Science 2: Baking a testable hypothesis.
Then, using the student guide, and issues of Science News or the digital Science News archive, help students work through the early stages of their research ideas:
- Read articles from different issues of Science News to identify problems and generate potential research ideas
- Develop questions from potential research ideas
- Select the best question from among their ideas
- Formulate a clear scientific hypothesis or engineering goal
For those students who need more inspiration or more examples, you can illustrate how research reported in the latest Science News might lead to ideas for new student-driven research. Here are examples:
- For News in Brief stories see this guide’s discussion section
- Deadly New Zealand quake hopscotched across faults [Students could try to build better/cheaper seismographs, use them to monitor for local earthquakes, create their own computer simulations of earthquake faults or propose ways to safely relieve stress in major faults.]
- Getting dengue first may make Zika infection much worse [Students could do their own computer analysis of the DNA sequence, protein sequence or structural similarities and differences among Zika and Dengue strains or potential vaccine strains.]
- For glass frogs, moms matter after all [Students could do their own experiments with frog behavior, development or anatomy/physiology/histology.]
- Supermassive black hole gets kicked to the galactic curb
[Students could develop their own simulations of black holes, wormholes or gravitational waves.]
- Fins of Pain
[Students could do their own experiments with muscles and neurotransmitters using earthworms or other invertebrates.]
Beyond the student guide, to further help students develop and perform an experiment, think about having them do the following:
- Conduct background research to assess the originality and feasibility of that potential project, and to learn more about suitable methods
- Propose experimental and/or theoretical methods of evaluating their scientific hypothesis or meeting their engineering goal
- Think about the types and quantity of data they would need to collect, and how they would analyze it
- Keep a detailed laboratory notebook from the beginning of the project to the end
- Discuss what they would hope to achieve or accomplish by doing the project
- Research relevant science fair regulations, paperwork or other requirements or restrictions relevant to their proposed project
Students should begin this process with multiple ideas, and educators can take them through the early stages for these ideas in parallel to narrow down to the best single experimental design. Or students can iterate: If they discover that their first idea was not sufficiently feasible or original, they can repeat the process with a better idea using what they have learned.
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