How to teach the scientific method to kids + Book Recommendations
The Scientific method is one of the foundations of STEM. When taught correctly, it will open up the world to students. Before we get into how to teach the scientific method, let’s cover why science is important in the first place.
Why Science is Important
STEM, the fusion of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, is gaining unbelievable credibility in its necessity for growth and development among our youth.
STEM starts with Science for great reason, as it is the cornerstone of both our history and future.
A world without science is a world without electricity, vaccines, smartphones, automobiles, and the internet, to name a few. However, science isn’t always about new discoveries or inventions that will change the world.
Science is valued by most, but people see it as a gift that many don’t inherit. In fact, science is ubiquitous as it’s the basic outline of curiosity that every human being naturally inherits.
When this curiosity is nurtured, scientists emerge! It is the building block of growth and development that helps us understand how the world around us works.
Remember the terrible twos? Are they really that terrible, or did our kids just ask tough questions? Sure, there are those questions that we want to avoid answering, but often, kids will ask questions that are simply too challenging to answer ourselves.
It might start as an easy question, but wait until they rattle off that 15th “why” or “how.” Curiosity. It’s a beautiful thing and is at the heart of every scientific student, scientist, and human being.
By carefully observing the world and devising tests to determine if those ideas are accurate, science can be found everywhere. Why does a lightning bolt strike? What’s inside of a computer?
How can we create a vaccine for cancer? Kids may not immediately be able to solve all of those questions, but providing them with the appropriate tools to develop their own method may be more important than knowing everything up front.
If we encourage the process of learning more than the product, the benefits are endless.
The scientific method applies to coding robots as well. There are tons of projects kids can do with robotics. Please take a look at our article, 11 Best Coding Robots to Teach Kids to Code (for all ages!)
History of the Scientific Method
Historically speaking, no specific person can be credited with designing the Scientific Method as we know it today. There isn’t even an “Ultimate Scientific Method” that is the best and most tried system.
Every scientific process works well as long as it starts with curiosity, can be tested through an experiment, and leads to a conclusive observation. It stands as a logical, rational, and problem-solving type of method applicable to a multitude of fields.
That’s not always the fun answer, so let’s take a second to credit those that did historically advance the Scientific Method. The Scientific Method has a rich history that has progressed and evolved from geniuses such as Aristotle, Al-Biruni, and Isaac Newton.
Science was traditionally categorized into an overarching branch mixed with Philosophy and Technology. It wasn’t until the Scientific Revolution that it became its own independent field of study.
The Scientific Revolution started in the 1500s and made immaculate breakthroughs to develop the emergence of modern science.
With the monumental advancements from Enlightenment scientists such as Galileo Galilei, Francis Bacon, and Rene Descartes in changing variables and recording their processes, the scientific method made tremendous gains in the 16th century and 17th centuries.
Even then, the “Scientific Method” as a term did not gain much headway until the 20th century, but the design itself was put into words for future generations to expand on.
What is the Scientific Method for kids
Under this, we have a PDF you can print out of the Scientific Method Worksheet. We also have a ton of other STEM printables you can find here.
The Scientific Method can be applied to a multitude of studies, including social sciences, mathematical probabilities, and technological configurations.
It is your basic road map that provides individuals with a series of steps to perform that can figure anything out. If you want to get to the bottom of a question, you most likely will use the scientific method to get the best results.
With that said, it can be used by anyone, including kids! Especially kids.
The Scientific Method for kids is the same as for adults. It is a method and process of research.
It works as a step-by-step guideline to teach individuals how to experiment correctly and come to an evidence-based solution.
In essence, it’s how people study and learn things! If you think your child can study and learn something, then they can most certainly use the scientific method.
Please take a look at the best STEM subscription kits we’ve reviewed. Kids will apply the scientific method each month as they get a new box sent to your home.
Steps of the Scientific Method
- Ask a Question (Channel your inner curiosity and pose a question)
- Make a Hypothesis (Create a prediction: What do they think will happen?)
- Research (Gather information and observe what it is you are really studying)
- Experimentation (This step may need to be repeated, A LOT. Keep on trying!)
- Make Observations (Yup, more observations. Examine what is happening.)
- Draw Conclusions (What happened compared to what you thought would happen? What would happen if you change a variable? This could be the part where you revisit step 4 and try all over again)
- Share and Discuss Results (Share them with everyone! The more you collaborate, the better your study will be)
Can Kids use the Scientific Method
Everyone can use the Scientific Method and is encouraged to do so! Many people naturally do so without outlining it in a step-by-step format.
If kids can ask questions, then they can use the scientific method. As I said before, there is no perfect way to conduct the scientific method. If you need to modify a step or have them skip a part, then it doesn’t make them any less of a scientist than Albert Einstein himself.
Trust me, he has been known to skip a step or two himself.
Here is a quick way to modify it for a younger child.
- Ask a Question
- Ask them what they think will happen (Hypothesis)
- Test it out (Experimentation)
- What actually happened? (Conclusions)
See! Easy for anyone to do without the added scary steps. Talking about the Scientific Method can seem tedious, so let’s try to apply it using a real-life scientific example.
Scientific Method Example: Will water freeze faster if you add something to it? Does water freeze faster if it uses cold water? Does water mix with soda freeze at all?
Okay, I’ll stick to one question: Will water freeze faster if you add sugar to it?
- Ask a question! Done! (Example: Will water freeze faster if you add sugar to it?)
- Make a Hypothesis: Leave this up to them of course, but don’t be scared to put your own How to teach the scientific method to kids thoughts in after they’ve made their hypothesis. Example: Water will freeze faster without sugar.
- Research: This is a valuable step that is often skipped. Example: Review the different states of matter with your child: liquids, solids, and gases. This may pique their curiosity for a new experiment upon review.
- Experimentation: Example: Fill two identical containers with the same amount of water. Make sure the water is at the same temperature, too to eliminate that variable. Add a measured amount of sugar to one of the containers and place them both in the freezer. Check the freezer at intervals of 10-15 minutes until both are frozen.
- Make Observations: Example: Record your observations, especially if one freezes before another. Encourage them to write down and record the time each container froze. If they resist recording their results, teach them through your own lesson. Ask them later at what point a liquid turned into a solid. Oh. They don’t know you say?
- Draw Conclusions: Example: Based on the results, which froze faster? Did the experiment work as your hypothesis predicted? Were there any outlying variables that may have skewed the results? What happened!?
- Share and Discuss Results: Example: Discuss what happened. Share it with everyone in your family. Take pictures of what happened! Talk about it with others and see if you can build on this experiment or add different variables.
Regardless of the experiment – and there are countless others to use, some even on this very same website – the importance of the Scientific Method for kids is limitless.
When using this structure, you are providing your child with the foundation of a logical and rational way to solve any problem. Science doesn’t always require using safety goggles or a microscope. It can be utilized with anything. If you’re curious and have a question, then apply this method!
Tell you what, how about you use this as an experiment in and of itself. See if your child or children enjoy using the Scientific Method to conduct their own experiments.
Make a hypothesis: Will they enjoy it or not? When you come to the conclusion that they love it and are only benefiting from it, then share those thoughts here with us! Until then, have fun experimenting!
These are a few book recommendations specifically for the scientific method. I’ve purchased all of these and done full hands-on reviews. You can see all my STEM book reviews here.
Look I’m a Scientist! by DK (Ages 3-7)
11 Experiments that Failed by Jenny Offill (Ages 4-8)
What is Science? by Rebecca Kai Dotlich (Ages 5-7)
Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty (Ages 5-7)
Mad Margaret Experiments with the Scientific Method by Eric Mark Braun (Ages 5-8)
Awesome Kitchen Science Experiments by Megan Olivia Hall (Ages 5-10)
Awesome Science Experiments for Kids by Crystal Chatterton (Ages 5-10)
Awesome Physics Experiments for Kids by Erica L. Colon (Ages 10-13)
How to Think like a Scientist: Answering Questions by the Scientific Method by Stephen P. Kramer (Ages 8-12)