Peter.D.Riley

International bestselling award-winning author Facebook Twitter

Taking science education across the world

Our future depends on exploring all the frontiers of science, on innovative technologies based on these explorations and on the development of scientific literacy in all peoples through science education.

Background information on the Learning Path

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Natural World Photo Gallery

The Natural World Photo Gallery provides an example of scientific exploration. Here are some notes about it.

Scientific Exploration: How does it start?

Science exploration begins by being curious about something and wanting to find out more.

Scientific Exploration: How did it start?

The Ancient Greeks living two thousand years ago were the first to try and find out about our world but most of them just talked about their ideas. The Islamic Scholars living in the seventh to sixteenth centuries were the first to begin exploring by making experiments and writing down their results in words and pictures. About five hundred years ago people in Europe began to explore the whole world in sailing ships and on board there was usually at least one person who was both an explorer and a scientist – someone who was curious, observant and kept a diary in words and pictures.

Scientific exploration and the Natural World Photo Gallery

Today there are still scientific explorations taking place. They involve setting up expeditions to take people around the world and record what they see. The Natural World Photo Gallery does not rely on expeditions because you are already all around the world and you can do what scientists on expeditions do – take photographs and send them via the internet to build an up-to-date global data base of the plants and animals that live around us.

Why not send in pictures four times a year so we can build up an even more detailed picture of how living things change in different parts of the world?

How is the Natural World Photo gallery educational?

  • Many books show the main animals and plants that live in a region of the world. This project aims to feature some of the generally less well-known ones to build up a more complete data base of plants and animals around the world.

  • You are asked to look up the international scientific name of the plants and animals you photograph and include them with the local name in the caption. This helps everyone identify the plant and animal.

  • The international scientific names are based on Latin and Greek. These languages were used in the writing of the first science books. They can be researched in guides to plants and animals and on line. The words used in the name describe certain features of the plant and animal and some people find enjoyment in finding out about them and also gain a little knowledge of the Classical languages. For example the daisy that grows in Europe has the name Bellis perenis which is derived from Latin words meaning pretty and everlasting and the golden eagle a large bird of prey found in the Northern hemisphere has the name Aquila chrysaetos which comes from the Latin for eagle (Aquila) and the Greek word for gold (chrysos).

The Curiosity Box

The curiosity box provides an opportunity to follow the traditions of exploration (in collecting things on walks in the countryside or on the sea shore), making enquiries (using books to find out about the items collected and communication (making a presentation).

How is the curiosity box linked to science?

In the eighteenth century it was considered fashionable for educated people to have a cabinet of curiosities to entertain guests. The collections stimulated discussion and speculation which are the often preliminary stages leading to a scientific enquiry. As collections increased in size they were brought together to form museums which can include a data base of specimens for scientific enquiry.

How is the curiosity box educational?

It encourages observational skills, research using secondary sources and presentation skills. The activity about remembering objects and facts helps to develop the memory.

The Scientific Method

The scientific method is used in making all scientific enquiries.

What is the scientific method?

It is a sequence of activities which lead to a discovery. Briefly they are

  • Looking (Observing).
  • Thinking of an idea to explain what you have seen. (Making a hypothesis).
  • Predicting what you might find.
  • Trying to find out. (This may be an experiment but see below)
  • Recording your result.
  • Comparing the hypothesis and prediction with what you found out.
  • Explaining what you found out.

Other lines of enquiry do not involve an experiment. These enquiries still involve the other the stages of the scientific method but the trying to find out part might be one of the following instead –

  • Observing how a plant grows over time,
  • Grouping a collection of specimens,
  • Finding a pattern in a number of observations,
  • Finding information in books or on the internet.

How can I take part in science enquiries for the Science Enquiry Hub?

Download the free Scientific Method posters which show eight stages in the scientific method and use them to set up a laboratory area.

Make scientific enquiries at home, in a science club or in class perhaps by using some of my books as starting points.

* For 5 – 7 year olds Ways into Science (Watts)

* For 7 – 9 Year olds Moving up with Science/The Real Scientist (Watts)

* For 9 – 11 year olds Straightforward Science/The Real Scientist (Watts)

* Teachers Resources – 100 Science lessons 2014 Curriculum (Scholastic)

* Revise for Cambridge Primary Checkpoint Science Teachers Guide (Hodder Education)

Can you provide more information for using the Scientific Method posters?

Yes but look at each poster and the background information about it together. Many people think the Scientific method is difficult but it is really applying common sense to an approach to finding things out. You may like to take a little time slowly going from one poster and its information to the next to learn the steps. It may seem daunting at first but once the posters are up and enquiries are underway you will find it becomes easier to think about and use.

Here are the notes. Please take you time going through them.

Look

Observing is the scientific term you might like to use here. This can be observing at a living thing, an object or an event that is happening such as feather falling to the ground. It can also be something that has been seen in a book while researching any factual question on science or in a TV programme on science.

In the poster it is the tripping up and spilling the contents of the curiosity box which provides a focus for the children to observe.

Think

The thinking at this stage is just generating an interest which the child might like to investigate. In the example on the sheet an interest is being shown in the way objects fall. “Do some things fall fast and some things fall slow?” At this stage the thought is not focused on making testable by experiment.

Hypothesize

In this form of thinking the children come up with an idea to explain or describe the observation that can be tested by experiment. It does not matter if the idea is “wrong” or “right”.

In the example on the poster the first thought is restructured into a more specific idea which can be tested.

“I think heavy things fall faster than light things.”

Predict

The prediction is an educated guess based on the hypothesis. Again it is not important that the prediction is “wrong” or “right”. What is important is that the prediction is consistent with the hypothesis and follows on from simple reasoning. It is the prediction that can drive or help shape the investigation.

In the example on the poster the prediction is

“I predict this heavy rock will fall faster than this light rock.”

Note that the prediction is very specific to the two rocks but is based n the hypothesis that heavier things fall faster than light things.

Experiment

The experiment is the test of the hypothesis and prediction.

There are three steps. In the poster step three is shown but you should go through all the steps with the children prepare to reach step three.

1. Planning. A plan should be made considering what is actually to be done, what equipment is needed to do it, where it should be done, what might need to be done to ensure maximum safety, what can be done to keep errors to a minimum.

In the poster the plan is to have one person hold up the two rocks to the same height over a metal tray. One person is to time the fall of each rock, one person is o film the release of the rocks to check they are released at the same time. One person is to record the sound made by the rocks as they hit the metal tray. One person is to write down what happened.

2 Selecting or making your equipment

All the activities in my books involve every day materials and equipment. Some pieces of equipment could be made with your help such as the cutting the top off a plastic bottle and inverting it to make a funnel.

IN the poster the children have selected a heavy and light rock, two stopclocks, a mobile phone set to record the sound, a video camera to film release of the stones, a clipboard, paper and pen.

3 Carrying out the plan using the equipment

Once the equipment is collected and assembled it may help if the child mimes what is to be done before actually doing it. If measuring is involved you may need to check your child’s ability to use measuring scales (such as those on rulers) accurately.

Record

This is the collecting scientific data often in the form of filling in tables but also in photographs and film.

The measurements or observations that are collected in the investigation is called the data. Observations may be recorded in tables, written accounts, labeled drawings or diagrams or photographs with captions.

In the poster the data is recorded on the stop watches and transferred to the paper on the clip board. It is also recorded on film and by a sound recording.

Examine data

The data is often also called the evidence and this stage may also be called considering or evaluating the evidence. Sometimes people describe the data as the results of the investigation. Whatever term is used the data must be examined or analysed. In this activity the data is compared with the hypothesis and prediction. To guide your children and students in analysis you might like to use one of the following instructions, as appropriate, – arrange, order, divide, separate, compare and explain.

In the poster the film and sound recording are examined to see if the rocks were released at the same time (they were) and that the rocks hit the tray at different times making two sounds. (They did not. They made one sound indicating that they fell as fast as each other). The recordings of the stop clocks are now presented in a table and are shown to be identical (A further indication of the rocks falling as fast as each other). All this data is then compared with the hypothesis ..

Heavy things fall faster than light things.

..and the prediction

The heavy rock will fall faster than the light rock.

This examination of the data leads to the last step of the scientific method.

Make a Conclusion

The conclusion is a statement based on the examination of the data. The conclusion drawn in the poster is a generalization which sometimes occurs at the end of an investigation. More accurately the conclusion should be that the heavy rock and the light rock fell as fast as each other as this was the only fact that was discovered.

However, making a generalization allows further thought and the emergence of scepticism a key feature in science enquiry to appear.

Scepticism is a disbelief in what has been presented. In the poster the conclusion is greeted by skepticism by one of the children who believes after considering a pine cone and a leaf that the conclusion is wrong. This can lead to another experiment and shows how the scientific method helps expand the discovery of knowledge.

You may like to ask your children how the conclusion could be modified to show a fact has been discovered and look for an answer about the heavy and light rocks falling as fast as each other.

You could also challenge them to compare the falling of a pine cone and leaf and to research to find out why they take different times to fall.(Its due to air resistance).

Extra note

Many people have difficulty with the idea of objects falling at the same rate so here is a simple explanation which I hope will help.

The idea that heavy things fall faster than light things was first put forward by Aristotle in Ancient Greece In his time everything was considered to be made of four elements – fire, water, earth and air. The elements in an object made it move in a certain way. It was believed that heavy objects contained a lot of earth and this drew them to back to the Earth quickly while lighter objects had less earth and were not drawn to the Earth as quickly. This idea prevailed until Galileo in the seventeenth century showed that weight does not affect the way things fall.

The reason for this is that gravity pulls on the objects and gravity is a force.

Newton’ s second law of motion describes a force as mass multiplied by acceleration.

F = m x a

All objects have mass and they also have inertia. This is a resistance to change what they are doing. If you push on a rock it does not move straight away you have to overcome its inertia to make it move. The amount of inertia is directly related to the amount of mass so the more massive the rock the more inertia it has and the more difficult it is to move.

You can think of inertia in a falling object to cancel out he effect its mass in the force equation so we have ..

F = a

..which in a falling object is the acceleration due to the force of gravity. This means that both heavy and light objects only have the force of gravity acting on them and this makes them fall as fast as each other.

How is the scientific method educational?

The scientific method is vital in finding out about our world and space. It is a requirement of every science curriculum that children and students are taught about it and that adults must know it, at least in outline, to be scientifically literate.

Science Exhibition Gallery

The main scientific tradition celebrated here is communication.

How did the tradition of communicating science begin?

The tradition of communication began with the Ancient Greek philosophers teaching their ideas to their students, the books written by them, the Islamic scholars and the natural philosophers of the Enlightenment.

Letter writing was a common form of communication from the seventeenth century onwards with natural philosophers, who later became called scientists, corresponding with each other about their thoughts and discoveries. Today there are scientific journals in which scientist publish their work for all to read, discuss and devise plans for further investigations.

How is the Science Exhibition Gallery Educational?

It allows you to follow in the tradition in communicating ideas about science. It provides opportunities to share your scientific projects worldwide where your ideas may stimulate others to adapt and enrich their own science educational projects just as scientists use information from others in the building up their own new investigations.

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My Books

Follow the links below to find out more about my books and book series, as well as downloadable resources for teachers and parents using my books.

Books for Primary Schools
Books for Secondary Schools

Books and Resources for Teachers

Contact Me

I can be contacted in the following ways. If you have a picture for the Natural World Photo Gallery or the Science Exhibition Gallery, please send it by email.