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Are you interested in becoming a scientist? Science is all about gaining knowledge by asking good questions, making observations, testing your ideas and drawing conclusions. With a little practice, you can learn to think like a scientist.


Are you curious about the world around you? Do you like to learn about how things work? Did you ever come up with a creative solution to a problem? If you answered yes to these questions, then you might already think like a scientist. Science is a system used to gain knowledge based on observations, testing and reasoning. In fact, the word science comes from the Latin word ‘scientia,’ which means ‘knowledge.’ When a scientist wants to know something, he or she uses the scientific method to figure it out.

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The scientific method is an organized way of studying something. The scientific method is something that all scientists learn and use. It involves following logical steps. These steps include: asking questions, making observations, making an educated guess, testing your ideas and forming a conclusion. In this lesson, I would like you to follow along as James and his little brother, Joey, encounter a dog. Let’s see if you can identify when James is using a scientific way of thinking.

Ask Questions

James is in middle school.

Every day after school he walks over to the elementary school to pick up his little brother, Joey, so they can walk home together. On their way home, they pass a junk yard surrounded by a fence. This day, the brothers notice that there is a dog inside the junk yard. Joey is excited and wants to know if he can pet the dog. James knows that not all dogs are safe to pet so he asks himself a question, ‘is the dog friendly?’James doesn’t realize it, but he just thought like a scientist.

The first step that all scientists make when trying to figure something out is to ask questions. You might want to use a little trick called the 5 Ws to master the art of asking good questions. The 5 Ws are: who, what, when, where and why. These words start the questions that help you to gather information.

For example, James could ask, ‘who owns the dog?’, ‘what type of dog is it?’, ‘when is it safe to pet a dog?’, ‘where is the owner?’ or ‘why is the dog by itself?’

Make Observations

Joey is really anxious to pet the dog, but James doesn’t want him to get bitten. So, James takes a look at the situation. He sees that the dog is big and muscular and wearing a spiked collar around its neck.

James listens closely and hears a faint growl coming from the dog. Did you notice that James just used his sense of sight and hearing to make observations about the environment? Using your senses to make observations is another example of using a scientific approach to solve a problem.

Form a Hypothesis

Because of the observations James made, he is ready to make an educated guess about whether or not he should let his little brother pet the dog.

This educated guess is formally called a hypothesis. It is an idea that can be tested. A hypothesis is a simple statement that is only one sentence in length. A good way to write a hypothesis statement is to use the words ‘if’ and ‘then.

‘ For example, if the dog is growling, then it is not safe to pet.

Test ; Conclude

Now, you might think that because James came up with a hypothesis that it was not safe to pet the dog that our story would end there. However, James is a typical big brother, and he decides to use his innocent little brother to test his hypothesis. James tells Joey to walk over to the fence. When he does, the dog barks and shows its teeth, making Joey jump back.

You might think James was just being a mean big brother, but actually he just continued his scientific way of thinking by testing the hypothesis. The test proved his hypothesis was correct. Now, the only thing left for James to do is to form a conclusion. He concludes that the growling junk yard dog is not friendly and should not be petted.This day’s experiment is over and the brothers head home, but the great thing about science is that there is always something to explore. For example, James might come up with a new question.

He might wonder if there’s a way to make the junk yard dog tame. He could form a new hypothesis based on his questions and observations; something like, ‘if a mean dog is fed a bone every day for one month, then it will become friendly enough to pet.’ James could then test his hypothesis and come to a new conclusion at the end of the month.

This shows that the real key to thinking like a scientist is to never stop asking questions.

Lesson Summary

Let’s review. If you are curious about how things work and like to come up with creative ideas, then you already think like a scientist. Science is a system used to gain knowledge based on observations, testing and reasoning. To solve problems, a scientist uses the scientific method, which is an organized way of studying something.

The scientific method involves asking questions and making observations. The scientist uses these questions and observations to form a hypothesis, which is an idea that can be tested. Once the hypothesis is tested the scientist forms a conclusion, and it’s on to the next question.

Learning Outcomes

After completing this lesson, you acquire the ability to:

  • Define science and hypothesis
  • List and describe the steps of the scientific method

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