One of the most basic questions for a scientist is, “Why?” In teaching kids how to think like a scientist, a lot depends on the age and interest level but the essentials are found in these steps:
- Problem Solve
- Theory Build
- Collect Data
The Kid’s Eye View of Science Book equips the teacher to take advantage of a child’s natural curiosity and turn it into the best type of learning experience. Many children see the changes around them in the autumn and wonder why the leaves are turning color, the weather is colder, and animals are acting differently. Birds and insects also make changes in their behavior. Not all classrooms have access to outdoor activities, but there is a simple way to bring seasonal observations inside: the ant farm.
The classic Aesop’s fable about the Ant and the Grasshopper brings out the reasons ants are so busy — they are preparing for the winter when food will be hard to find. Chris Van Allsburg’s “Two Bad Ants” is a humorous look at two ants who decide to keep all the food for themselves. Bringing real ants into the classroom allows students to learn how to think like a scientist while observing ants. Here are some sample questions:
- Hypothize — do you think real ants will act the way they do in the story?
- Experiment — how can we find out how ants act around sugar crystals?
- Problem solve — what do we need to do to find the answers to our questions?
- Observe — what do the ants do when they find sugar? Keep track of what happens so we don’t forget!
- Theory build — why do you think ants take sugar into their burrow? How do other animals store food for the winter?
- Collect data — the more information we have, the easier it is to see patterns and identify facts.
Observing the changes in the season and discussing the differences in how the grasshopper of Aesop faces winter can springboard into more scientific discoveries: How are ants different than grasshoppers? Does living in a community change the way an ant faces cold weather? Which insects stay active over the winter? Do ants in climates without extreme cold act the same way? Why do some parts of the world have seasons while other parts of the world do not?
Finding the answers to these questions and more encourage learning how to research. As answers are found, the class can explore the ways scientists discovered the reasons why some things change.