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Are you looking for an easy way to teach the scientific method for kids? I’m sharing each step in this post, along with a free template you can print to help your kids walk through the scientific process.
Being inquisitive is in a kid’s nature. They LOVE asking questions (and come up with some of the best ones!). And although I love to answer them, as they get older I know that part of my job as a homeschool mom is to not answer each and every question for them.
Sooner or later, they need to have the tools to gather information and draw conclusions on their own, whether that happens inside science class or not. For kids, learning the scientific method steps can be a great way to build on skills that will be valuable in many areas of their lives.
An Englishman named Sir Francis Bacon helped create what we know as the scientific method. I thought it was interesting to learn, though, that there were multiple professional scientists and scholars who developed the scientific method over many years, and that many disagree on different ways to implement it. However, there are basic steps that have come to be accepted and taught as the scientific method (and that we get to explore with our kids!).
Scientific Method Steps for Kids
These steps to the scientific method that help us guide our research involve observing and asking questions, formulating a scientific hypothesis (or educated guess), planning and running an experiment, evaluating data and drawing conclusions.
Why Should Kids Learn the Scientific Method?
Why is it important that we teach our kids the scientific method? Isn’t it enough to just have fun doing experiments when we want to? We learn so much from them without formally teaching all of these steps!
Well, yes – we certainly learn a ton from fun experiments! But as my kids are getting older, I am finding they are needing a little bit more structure in thinking through their thoughts, making guesses based on thoughtful observations, and drawing valid conclusions after careful study. These are all important skills to learn and practice. (And don’t worry – I created a FREE printable that will help you walk through this entire process. It’s not as scary as it sounds!).
Here are some other reasons you’ll want to use the scientific method for kids in your homeschool:
- The scientific process helps us dig in and learn more about God and His creation (and there is so much to observe and learn!).
- Scientists actually use the scientific method to research, study, learn, and solve problems. And your kids will have fun being scientists too!
- Following the scientific method steps allows us to conduct experiments correctly. It also teaches young kids the importance of documenting their steps and research so those that come behind them can replicate results, or build on their research. Carefully recording information is an important skill they will be able to translate to so many other areas.
Steps of the Scientific Method for Kids
Here are the basic steps in the scientific method you’ll want to teach your kids:
- Observe and ask a question.
- Form a hypothesis.
- Do an experiment.
- Evaluate your data.
- Draw a conclusion.
Let’s go over each of the steps in a little bit more detail with an easy example, so you can see how you might teach it in your homeschool. You’ll then be able to use this method with any of your science experiments in your homeschool; my free printable will definitely help walk you through the steps as well, and is a great addition to your kids homeschool scientific journal.
How to Teach the Scientific Method for Kids
Let’s use an easy example to walk through how the scientific method might look.
1. Ask a Question.
You have a couple of plants sitting on your windowsill, and your son asks the simple question about why they are sitting on the ledge. He wonders how the amount of light affects how a plant grows, and if it will grow without light.
And so begins the process of scientific investigation!
The first step for your kids is to take note of what questions they have, or what problems they might want to solve. What is something they are unsure about? Have them brainstorm some ideas and then do some observing and initial research to lay the groundwork for their experiment and help with the next step.
2. Make a Hypothesis.
Next, they’ll form a hypothesis, or an educated guess (a guess made from good reasoning and observing!), about what they think will happen. Before they do so, it might be helpful to make sure the question is clarified and is written in “testable” form, which will help them be clear in their experiment.
For example, the question from above might be, “I wonder if plants can grow in the dark?” You can help guide your child in re-forming this question to make it testable by using phrasing like:
- “Does changing __________ affect ___________ ?”
- “If I change __________, will it affect __________ ?”
- How does changing __________ affect __________ ?”
So – “How does the amount of light affect plant growth?”, or, “If I change the amount of sunlight a plant gets, will it affect it’s growth?”
Your child can then make a guess about what they think will happen, a possible answer, and begin planning on how to conduct the experiment.
3. Do an Experiment.
Now comes the fun part – finding out if you are right or wrong! Your child gets to map out their procedure (what they will actually do, how and what they will record) and make a list of materials they will need to conduct the experiment.
An important part of this step is noting what the independent and dependent variables will be. An independent variable is something that you will change; a dependent variable is what you will measure. A good experiment will only have ONE independent variable at a time – you don’t want to change too many things at once, or it will be hard to measure what actually produced the results.
In our example, our independent variable will be the light source – we’ll put one plant in sunlight and one in a dark place. We’ll try to keep them in rooms of the same temperature, and we’ll use the same amount of soil, same amount of water, and the same number and type of seed in each cup.
The dependent variable is what we are going to measure – how much the plants grow.
4. Evaluate Your Data.
This is the step where they record what is happening, what they observe, and then evaluate the results.
Drawing pictures and/or making graphs can definitely be helpful to display the data collected. Let them be creative with how they record this, but remind them that accuracy and being able to share data with others is important!
5. Draw a Conclusion.
Finally, they get to make a final conclusion. Did the experiment answer your question, and was your hypothesis correct? Thinking about what they learned and other new questions that may have arose as a result of the experiment are worth noting.
In some cases, it might be worthwhile to repeat the experiment with a new hypothesis, or try it again in a slightly different way to help draw conclusions. For example, maybe we could repeat the plant experiment with a different type of plant to see if we got the same results.
Have Fun With It!
Remember that learning about God’s creation and natural world through science experiments should be fun and enjoyable! Choose activities your kids will love, or let them help you decide what fun experiments to try. The skills that they will learn as they work through the scientific method will be valuable for them in years to come.
Can I Use the Scientific Process with my youngest kids?
Absolutely! Even young children will love following along as you perform experiments with your older kids. Although they won’t be able to journal or record data like the bigger kids, simply walking through and talking about the series of steps is a great way to introduce them to the scientific process.
When your little ones ask a good question that might make for a simple science experiment, ask them what they think will happen! Then recruit any older siblings to join in on the fun.
Science Experiment Ideas
You might have kids who are very scientifically-minded, and ask questions about everything! If not, sometimes coming up with a fun experiment can be a stumbling block.
Here are a few scientific questions your kids might have fun exploring, to get you rolling on the first step of practicing the scientific process for kids. These are also perfect to investigate for a science fair project at your school or homeschool co-op!
- Does music affect animal behavior?
- Where are the most germs in your home?
- Which paper towel brand is the strongest?
- What is the best way to keep cut flowers fresh the longest?
- What plant fertilizer works best?
- What brand of battery lasts the longest?
- How much weight can the surface tension of water hold?
- Which soda decays fallen out teeth the most?
- Can hamsters learn tricks?
- What is the effect of salt on the boiling temperature of water? On it’s density?
- What type of grass seed grows the fastest?
Once they get started brainstorming, your kids can probably come up with lots of ideas to explore for their own experiments!
Scientific Method for Kids Books
There are a few great books you might want to check out as you introduce the scientific method steps. They are also wonderful for experiment ideas!
What is the Scientific Method? Science Book for Kids
Mad Margaret Experiments with the Scientific Method (In the Science Lab)
Awesome Science Experiments for Kids: 100+ Fun STEM / STEAM Projects and Why They Work
Awesome Kitchen Science Experiments for Kids: 50 STEAM Projects You Can Eat!
Steve Spangler’s Super-Cool Science Experiments for Kids: 50 mind-blowing STEM projects you can do at home
Smithsonian 10-Minute Science Experiments: 50+ quick, easy and awesome projects for kids
101 Great Science Experiments: A Step-by-Step Guide
The 101 Coolest Simple Science Experiments
Step-by-Step Scientific Method Printable
My older kids are in 2nd and 3rd grade right now, and I created this printable for them (so it works well for mid-upper elementary-aged students). However, you can absolutely adapt it if you have younger students, or students who aren’t quite ready to do so much writing just yet. You can still teach the process!
This FREE printable comes with one sheet that lists out all the scientific method steps; this is perfect to print out and hang in your homeschool room to refer to. And if your kids are younger, you can verbally talk through the process while doing simple experiments with them, which will help prepare them for a more in-depth process when they get older.
There is also one-page-per-step that walks them through the scientific method, and a basic list of some fun science experiment ideas to try. I also have a one-page sheet your kids can use to write out their process, if you want a simpler, more compact template.
Grab yours for FREE today!
I hope you have so much fun making memories with your kids learning about science and the scientific method for kids.
Drop a comment below: What has been your favorite science experiment you have done with your kids? What would they say is their favorite?
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