Picture this: every day at school you order your lunch and every day you have just enough money left over to get yourself a treat—a yummy, gooey, oh-so-tasty chocolate chip cookie. You take your lunch and still-warm treat back to your lunch table at which your friends Jeff, Brad, and John sit. But you can’t eat your tasty morsel right away. No, no, no. This week you are on the dreaded hall duty for the first ten minutes of lunch. You do your duty and you make your way back to the table. Your stomach is growling; that cookie is calling your name. But—dun, dun, dun—you look down at your tray and the only evidence of the cookie is a pile of crumbs!
“Who at my cookie?” you exclaim.
Everyone—even goody two-shoes Brad—looks down at the table in shame. No one fesses up. But you have a hunch: you think it is the not-so-nice Jeff.
The next day, the same thing happens! Again, just a pile of crumbs. You get angry. You don’t yell, though. You don’t stomp your feet. No! Because you, my friend, know the scientific method, with which you can solve this mystery and catch this baked good bandit.
So you formulate a plan: you will have Mrs. Slogenheimer call two of your three friends to her classroom during your hall duty, leaving behind just one friend. The plan goes off without a hitch. While you are in the hallway, she calls over Jeff and John and they leave the lunchroom. You come back, and guess what? Your cookie is gone, and Brad is sitting there, looking down at the table, embarrassed as ever.
“Brad,” you say, “I would have never have guessed it was you!”
“I’m sorry,” he says, red-faced. “I just really like cookies.”
Woo hoo! The scientific method worked!
You might be thinking, I didn’t use the scientific method. But trust me, you did, and you did so quite flawlessly, if I do say so myself.
To prove it to you, let’s use your plan and match it up with the various parts of the scientific method:
Purpose/question: The first, and arguably, the most important part of the scientific method, is the question. What was our question? Well, it was, simply, Who ate my cookie?
Hypothesis: A hypothesis is basically an educated guess, or, in other words, a guess with a reason behind it. So our guess was that Jeff ate the cookie and our reason behind it was that he was not-so-nice.
Experiment: The experiment is where you prove or disprove your hypothesis. In our case, we disproved our hypothesis by removing everyone but one person from the table and seeing if the cookie still disappeared.
Conclusion: This is where you take a look at your findings. Did you prove your hypothesis? Did you disprove your hypothesis? Did something go wrong in the experiment? Should you try it again? In our case we disproved our hypothesis and found that Brad ate the cookie.
See! You used the scientific method, step-by-step. And now you have the tools to continue to use it in your regular day. It’s a fantastic mystery-solving tool and, most importantly, it can be used to truly prove things!
For the parents: The steps of the scientific method, with some liberties taken, were borrowed from http://www.sciencebob.com/.