How is observation involved in all science?
What is an observation and how is this science?Iditarod mushers work with veterinarians and scientists to study how the dogs that run the Iditarod are able to do what they do; and what signs they must look for to make sure the dogs are as healthy as they can be on the day the race starts–and all the way to the finish line. By studying this we can actually learn about health and body function not only in dogs but also in humans. In its essence “doing science on the dogs” means to be observing them in different capacities. Doing science, scientists constantly make observations about the world around them in order to meaningful investigations–They make observations, then report on their observations to help answer questions and to make predictions. Often observations lead to more questions and new investigations. Scientists use all five senses (sight, hearing,touch, taste and smell) when making observations.
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1) Share with students that the Iditarod mushers work with veterinarians and scientists to study how the dogs that run the Iditarod are able to do what they do; and what signs they must look for to make sure the dogs are as healthy as they can be on the day the race starts–and all the way to the finish line. By studying this we can actually learn about health and body function not only in dogs but also in humans.
2) Brainstorm with the students what it means to “study something”, to “do science”. Ask student what they think is the most important thing a scientist has to be good at? Write the word “Observe” on the board and as a group define it. Review with students that “observing” something means to pay close attention to it and report about it.
To observe we use all five senses–seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting. We can use different tools to help us observe, such as a magnifying lens, a measuring tape, a thermometer, a scale, a balance, or a stop watch. In scientific observation we must always take notes and record our observations.
3) As a class or in teams of four, students observe an apple. As a group, briefly brainstorm ways to describe an apple. If appropriate set-up a Apple Observation Card and pass out tools such as measuring tape, magnifying lens, a scale, for students to record their observations as a group or individually.
– How does the apple look? Take a close look at the apple and describe it. Observe it closely noting its color, size and shape. A student can take charge of studying the apple with the magnifying lens, making note of anything not visible to the naked eye. Another student can tale charge of measuring the circumference of the apple.
– How does the apple smell? Compare it to other known smells. Does it smell sweet like candy or a flower? Does it smell sour like a lemon?
– How does the apple feel? Note its texture and weight. Is it smooth or bumpy? Is it soft or hard? Is lt light or heavy? Using a scale, a student can take responsibility of weighing the apple.
– How does the apple sound? Listen to the apple. While some objects do not make a sound on their own, they make a sound when you interact with them. A student can take charge of the sound test by taking a bite of the apple. What do the students hear?
– How does the apple taste? Cut up the apple into apple samples for each student to taste the apple and make observations about its taste. Is it sweet or sour, crunchy or soft?
Discuss why it is important that we be cautious about our sense of taste when we make observations, as it can be hazardous to our health. Emphasize that one should only taste something if it is deemed safe.
3) As a class, review the observations made. List observations on board in two columns: one for quantitative and one for qualitative–but do not identify the columns yet. Ask the class to describe the difference between the two columns. Once it is identified that one column has numbers and the other doesn’t, label the columns appropriately as qualitative and quantitative. Discuss the difference between qualitative and quantitative observations and elicit from students that quantitative observations are precise and easier to directly compare to one another.