The scientific process/method—Often described in textbooks as the “scientific method,” this is actually the process of experimentation and lab work. Having students identify what parts of the process they are using is a good way to teach the method to younger students.
Gathering data—This is a common practice in science that is easy to teach. Having students collect data using tools like a thermometer or ruler teaches many math skills as well as having them learn how scientists measure changes in data.
Analyzing data—Once the students have data, the next step is to interpret and look for patterns within the data set.
Drawing conclusions from data—What conclusions can we draw from the data? Did patterns in the data show trends or answer questions posed at the start of the investigation?
Designing simple experiments—Although challenging for students, experimental design can be done at different levels of sophistication depending on the abilities and skills of the students.
Making quantitative and qualitative observations—Having students learn how to observe and record their observations. This might take the form of students learning how to create field notes and organize their observations in a notebook.
Making predictions from observations or data—This is a great skill to develop in students of all ages. Teaching students to look for tendencies in a data set and making predictions is fundamental to scientific practice.
Presenting data in tables, graphs or charts—The presentation of quantified data is often a product in many projects. Maps, charts and graphs have specific uses and will require mini-lessons on their construction.
Creating models/illustrations and physical representations—Students will often build models as part of their presentation. It is important to consider the materials involved and safety issues that may arise as they make these products.
These are common practices that scientists perform as they investigate questions and solve problems. In any project learning experience, students are likely to engage or employ several of these skills. It is valuable to point out these skills to students, as they use them to evaluate and present scientific information in a project. As a facilitator of an after- school program, you may need to plan mini-lessons to teach specific skills to the students which will require some background knowledge in science or mathematics.
PISA (Programme for Science Assessment) identifies three broad categories of scientific knowledge: identifying scientific issues, explaining phenomena scientifically and using scientific evidence. They classify the content knowledge under these topics:
- earth and space systems
- living systems
- physical systems
TIMSS (Trends in Mathematics and Science Study) looks at three cognitive domains: knowing, applying and reasoning. Their categorization of content is life science, physical science and earth science at fourth grade and biology, chemistry, physics and earth science at eighth grade.
Project learning fits with either framework.
It is also important to recognize the mathematical nature of many of the skills above. The integration of math skills in authentic situations is a great opportunity for students to see a purpose for learning math.