Science and Social Studies

Homeroom academics have been focused on science. Science is not taught via textbooks and nor are we focusing on hands-on experiments where students arrive at forgone conclusions. Rather we are trying to replicate the true nature of science by doing inquiry.

Having developed testable questions to see which is the better paper towel, or what are the best working conditions in class, students developed tests, collected data and used this evidence to answer their testable questions. In so doing, they began to gain insight into fair tests and variables. Kudos to George, who quite rightly observed to the class that “It’s really hard to do a fair test!”  Conducting a fair test is by no means an easy feat. Paper towels were different sizes as well as different brands thus making the tests unfair! Testing working conditions by seeing how many times you can write your signature in a fixed amount of time carried the hidden variable of practicing the task repeatedly so naturally students got faster as another variable; fatigue from writing! Crikey! George was right!

            In our latest inquiry, students observed the effects of a Mentos mint on soda and then tested a variable to see if they could make the eruption higher. With some variables being altered (warming the Coke, increasing the number of Mentos, reducing the size of the opening), the eruptions exceeded 8 feet. However when using a Venn diagram to analyze if the test was fair as only 1 variable was altered from the control, it became clear to some students that their tests weren’t fair. Kathryn noted that her 3 liter bottle of Coke had more soda (and thus more possible gas to cause the eruption) but also had a larger bottle opening. Nick noted that he dropped his root beer before testing and thus was testing a different type of soda but also a shaken soda. Jackson, George, Sean and Angus questioned if whether drilling a hole in the bottle cap and threading a Mentos onto a piece of fishing wire made the test unfair as there was no fishing line being dropped into the control. Such critical thinking and questioning is surely the goal of scientific inquiry!

            We’ll use this inquiry to bridge us into a focus for this year; forces. A soda and Mentos powered car, that demonstrates Newton’s law that for every force there is an equal and opposite force, will be used to introduce the concept of force as a push or pull.

            To reinforce this, students will explore and observe magnets. Having self-discovered so many big ideas about magnets, students will do a culminating inquiry in which they develop a testable question about magnetic force.  They will then need to develop and conduct a fair test to answer their question.

            Following this we will leave science and forces for a while, so we can focus our attention to social studies, where the world of economics awaits.