Develop ideas and evidence in science with these classroom activities

The nature of science resources try to give students an awareness of science as a changing body of knowledge. This resource contains activities for students which help them understand the difference between observation and inference, and how to interpret patterns. Black box investigations are a good way for students to learn about scientific theory and modelling because as the name suggests they are working in the dark. In real life scientists spend a lot of time working in the dark, trying to piece together data collected from various sources. Each activity includes a suggested lesson plan, worksheets, answers, suggestions for differentiation and resources.

Black box activity 1: tricky tracks

  • To help the students distinguish between observation and inference.
  • To introduce the concept that all ideas are valid unless there is further evidence to suggest otherwise.

This activity is appropriate for 11–13 years olds and fits into a scheme of work anywhere where observations are made. It can also be successfully used with 14–15 year olds. A possible follow up activity would be to carry out a series of class ‘test tube’ experiments, which required careful observation, followed by interpretation.

Black box activity 2: the cube activity

  • To look for patterns and use them to work out the missing information.

The search for patterns based on data is a large part of the scientific method. The patterns can then be used to predict further data points and then are often applied to other systems. It should be emphasised that scientific knowledge is based partly on observation and experiment, and partly on human creativity in interpretation.

This activity is appropriate for 11–12 year olds and can be easily fitted into a scheme of work. The exercise could be used to lead into some ‘real data’ interpretation exercises either using data gathered from their own experiments or data from secondary sources.

Black box activity 3: a model tube

  • To understand the concept of modelling.

This activity is appropriate for 11–14 year olds and could be used at any point in the scheme of work because no specific knowledge is required. However, it does lead nicely into thinking about a scientific model such as the particle theory of matter or the atom.