Making Observations and Inferences


Cathy Xiong

Robert F. Wagner School of Art and Technology, Queens

Summer Research Program for Science Teachers

August 2011



Subject:  General Science

Grade Level: 7th & 8th

Unit: Nature of Science

Duration:  60 minutes



This lesson allows the students to discover that science is everywhere.  It encourages students to apply their scientific skills and to think creatively in their everyday lives.


Aim:  How do scientists make observations and inferences?



Students will be able to:


Vocabulary: Observation, inferences, hypothesis



  1. Envelopes
  2. A set of checks
  3. Lab Notebooks



Do Now:

Turn to the person sitting next to you. Make three observations about your partner. What do your observations tell you about that person?


1.      Students are introduced with the terms observation and inference.

2.      Students are divided into groups of 4.

3.      Each group is given an envelope with sixteen checks. (Do not open the envelope until instructed). 

4.      Students are told that the checks came from a real family. They are asked to write a storyline about the family by interpreting the checks.

5.      Pull out ONLY 4 checks, and discuss with the group what situation the checks imply.

6.      Record the implied scenario in the lab notebook as Original hypothesis.

7.      Now, pull 4 more checks and modify the scenario and record as Tentative Hypothesis 1.

8.      Now, pull 2 final checks and further modify the scenario and record as Tentative Hypothesis 3.

9.      Each group will be given a few minutes to meet with other groups to compare data.

10.  Each group will come back together to formulate a final hypothesis based upon all the available data. Record this in the notebook as Final Hypothesis.

11.  One person from each group will present their findings.

12.  In conclusion, answer the following questions in the lab notebook

       a.       What bits of information on the checks were valuable to your group in formulating a hypothesis?

       b.      What information was useless?

       c.       List any misleading information that was presented.

       d.      Why do we say that a hypothesis in science is “tentative”?

       e.       How could your hypothesis become a theory?

       f.        Is your final hypothesis “correct”? Explain.


New York State Science Standards: 

Standard 5c: Uses evidence from reliable sources to develop descriptions, explanations, and models.

Standard 5d: Proposes, recognizes, analyzes, considers and critiques alternative explanations, and models.

Standard 5e: Identifies problems; proposes and implements solutions; and evaluates the accuracy, design, and outcomes of investigations.

Standard 5f: Works individually and in teams to collect and share information and ideas.

Standard 5g: Records and stores data using variety of formats.

Standard 7b: Argues from evidence.

Standard 7d: Explains a scientific concept or procedure to other students.