Directions for teachers: Use this short activity as a warm-up or exit ticket in class. The activity highlights an example of a serendipitous science discovery in the recent Science News article “Insect swarms might generate as much electric charge as storm clouds.” After students explore this article to define one example of a serendipitous finding in science, they can use any Science News article that highlights an unexpected discovery in science and create their poem or song about it.
Science’s happy accidents
Serendipity is the development of moments that occur by chance, often in a happy or beneficial way. Many times, serendipitous moments are shown through art, such as in movies, paintings and poems. Many scientific findings or discoveries also happen by accident, sometimes when an experiment fails or produces completely unexpected or unintended results.
1. Why is the study described in the Science News article considered serendipitous? Explain.
The scientists started out trying to determine something different and had unexpected results. They were measuring the atmosphere’s electric charge when a swarm of honeybees happened to fly by the sensor and changed the electric charge. They discovered that insect swarms can cause an electric charge in the atmosphere and decided to further investigate it.
2. Brainstorm some lessons you can take from how the scientific discovery happened. Why did the scientists think their study was uniquely successful?
Student answers will vary but may include remaining open to new discoveries, looking for connections across disciplines, not making assumptions, etc. The scientists were working together across the fields of biology and physics and were open to exploring an unexpected result from an initial experiment.
3. Use the Science News or Science News Explores archives to find another serendipitous scientific discovery and create a poem or song about it. Check out a few types of poems by Penguin Random House for ideas.
Student answers will vary.