Structure of Design: Built to Last?


Jeana Marinelli

The Academy for Social Action, Manhattan


Summer Research Program for Science Teachers

August 2007




What will your students be able to do?


SWBAT list and describe the steps of the scientific method.  




The objective introduces students to the steps of the scientific method in connection investigations that they will conduct on their own.  The big goal of this unit is to design their own structures, and thus this lesson introduces the protocol for using the scientific method to ask and answer questions.



How will you know whether your students have made progress toward the objective?   How and when will you assess mastery?

Students will complete a handout ordering the parts of the scientific method. Students will also develop their own scientific experiment to test if academic performance varies according to soft-drink preference.



What three-five key points will you emphasize?

The scientific method is an ordered way to scientifically investigate an idea or question.

The scientific method has six basic steps: (with variations)

  • Observation- “trigger”
  • Problem- “question”
  • Hypothesis- “prediction”
  • Procedure- “step-by-step list”
  • Results- “findings”
  • Conclusion- “explanation”




OPENING.  (6-7 min.)

How will you communicate what is about to happen?   How will you communicate how it will happen?

How will you communicate its importance?   How will you communicate connections to previous lessons?  

How will you engage students and capture their interest?



DO NOW: Why is scientific research important? What kinds of studies have you heard about, and how do they affect your life? (2-3 min)


HOOK-“ who drinks Coke and who drinks Pepsi?” (wait for hands to raise) “The New York Times recently published an article suggesting that students who drink Coke perform better in high school than students who drink Pepsi. What do you think about this? (hopefully students will be outraged and want to know why?)


As it turns out, this study was not true because the researchers had not designed their experiment or measured their data appropriately.  Whenever scientists perform an investigation, they follow a set of steps to answer the question that they are investigating.  This is called the Scientific Method.  Our goal today is to learn each step and the correct order that the steps belong in.  The Scientific Method is extremely important, not just in our class, but around the world because it creates a forum for scientists to share their ideas with each other and the world


Lucky for us, the scientific method begins with something you are all already very familiar with- observations.


tootsie rolls


scientific method handout


paper-clipped groups of sample steps




What key points will you emphasize and reiterate?

How will you ensure that students actively take-in information?

How will you vary your approach to make information accessible to all students?

Which potential misunderstandings will you anticipate?


Each time you list a step of the scientific method, write it on the board as if you are writing a lab report. (to save time you could have it pre-written and reveal each part)


I have observed that a lot of students chew things.  Gum, candy, seeds.  And while it is against the rules of our classroom community, I have developed a question based on this observation.


‘How many chews does it take to finish a tootsie Roll?”


Hmmm. I am going to predict that it takes 50 chews to finish a tootsie roll, because they are thick and sometimes difficult to chew. (write it on board) That’s my hypothesis, my educated guess about what I think is going to happen. I need to develop a procedure, a set of steps to follow during this test.


Step 1.  Get Tootsie Roll

Step 2.  Remove candy from bag and or wrapper.

Step 3.  Place Tootsie Roll in mouth

Step 4.  Chew until finished, making sure to count every chew along the way.


(Actually do it and count aloud.  Students usually enjoy exaggerated movements)


Let’s see, the data and results for my experiment are as follows.


It took  _______ chews to finish my tootsie roll.


I have come to the conclusion that I need to do more tests, because what if I chewed extra fast or extra slow?  Who wants to help me?


What you just saw was a very basic example of using the six steps of the scientific method.  Let’s look at each step again, and fill in how my demonstration used all six steps of the scientific method.”


Handout “Scientific Method.”  Restate each point and have students fill in the blanks in the first two columns.


Scientific Method Chart for each student


How will you clearly state and model behavioral expectations?

How will you ensure that all students have multiple opportunities to practice?

How will you scaffold practice exercises from easy to hard?

How will you monitor and correct student performance?


Students will complete the third column of the handout as they work in groups to follow the scientific method in answering the question- “How many chews does it take to finish a Tootsie Roll?”


Time each step and check in before groups move on to next portion. Suggested timeline:

Observations and Problem- 2min (already done)

Hypothesis: 2 min

Procedure: 3 min

Experiment and Record Data: 3 min

Conclusions: 4 min


(When handing out tootsie rolls, be very clear about what to do with trash and wrappers.  Students should place their wrapper in the right corner of their desk when they have finished chewing to signal that they are done with the experiment.)



A Tootsie roll (the mini kind) for each student.


How will you clearly state and model behavioral expectations?

In what ways will students attempt to demonstrate independent mastery of the objective?

How will you provide opportunities for extension?


Pass out paper-clipped sample steps to each student.  Students work independently to place the steps of the scientific method in order.  Students then rotate their slips to other people in their group.  Depending on available time, students should make it through 2-3 rotations.  Walk around and monitor their progress.


Paper-clipped slips

CLOSING. (__ min.)

How will students summarize what they learned?

How will students be asked to state the significance of what they learned?

How will you provide all students with opportunities to demonstrate mastery of (or progress toward) the objective?


Congratulations!  You have all been official scientists today because you followed the scientific method!  Today we learned the six steps of the scientific method, an approach that scientists all over the world use to study the world around them! Remember our big goal this summer is to use scientific thinking to investigate and help solve a murder!


Students complete an exit slip where they put each step in their own words.




HOMEWORK (if appropriate).  How will students practice what they learned?


Students will use the scientific method to create an experiment to answer the original question posed during the opening:

Ask question again… “could students who drink coke perform better in school than students who drink pepsi?” How would you know?  How could you apply the steps of the SM to prove or disprove this?

Students will design and experiment on their paper to test the answer to the question above.









Teaching Standard D: Teachers of science design and manage learning environments that provide students with the time, space, and resources needed for learning science. In

doing this, teachers: