You will need
- Pens or pencils
- Scrap paper
- Experiment equipment and resources, as needed
Before you begin
- Before this session, everyone should already have taken part in some activities that explored the science behind some of your regular activities. This is important as one of those activities will be the basis for their upcoming experiment.
- Planning and completing this project may take a number of weeks. This activity could be run over the course of a camp, across several sessions or even away from your meetings (at home, for instance).
- Give groups a list of all the equipment you have available for them to use. If there’s some budget, you could also have your scientists make you a list of things they might need buying.
- If anyone doesn’t want to do this project, an alternative is to run an activity or demonstration that teaches others some science. There’s some guidance for this in our Share the science activity.
- You can request a STEM Ambassador to help deliver science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) activities in the programme. To get started, go to the STEM Ambassador website and register as a ‘youth and community’ group. Then you’ll be able to share requests for support.
Get some ideas
- Split off into pairs or small groups to work on the project together. Everyone will need some paper and pens or pencils.
- Discuss some ideas for experiments involving your favourite activities. Remind everyone of what you’ve done as part of your programme, or check out some adventures for inspiration.
- Groups should create mind maps of different activities they’ve done. These should branch off to different characteristics and features of the activity.
- Groups should add more branches to each activity feature, leading to different scientific ideas.
- Everyone should use their ideas to choose a theme and think of a question. This should be something everyone in the group is interested in investigating.
Plan your experiment
- Once the group has settled on their question, they need to plan an experiment that’ll help them answer it. This should be worked out step-by-step and cover everything needed for the investigation. Everyone could use the 'Experiment planning template' to keep notes.
- Start by thinking about and writing down as many variables as they can think of (anything that could be controlled, changed or measured as part of the experiment).
- Highlight the most important variables. These will usually be the ones that have the greatest effect on the outcome the group is interested in. Rank all of the variables in this way.
- For the significant variables, groups should decide what they’ll be measuring, what they’ll be changing and what they’ll need to control to answer your question. Think about what data would need to be collected to answer the question.
- Groups now need to think about the details of how they’ll measure their data and what equipment they’ll need. Make an equipment list.
- Design the method for recording the data. This should make sure that the experiment answers the question by collecting suitable data in an efficient way. Address how the experiment will change some variables and keep others the same.
- Groups should start to think about their risk assessment, how they’ll control the risks associated with their experiment and list the hazards of measuring, changing and maintaining the variables.
- Choose a way to display the collected data. This might be a chart, table or graph. Whatever method is used should clearly show the data and why it’s significant to the question posed earlier.
- Groups should make their predictions on what they think will happen in the experiment. Everyone could make individual predictions to see who gets closest, or the group could agree on one. Think about the changes to variables and what effect it’ll have.
- Run the experiments. Make time for each group to share their findings with the rest of the group.
Einstein said that ‘curiosity is more important than knowledge.’ This activity is a chance for everyone to work together to learn something new about an activity they love. Ask everyone how they found their investigation. Did they find it easy to plan their experiment? Did they get the results they wanted or was anyone disappointed? Did they enjoy learning more about an activity they like?
Science isn’t always about finding the right answer first time, or even finding it at all! Sometimes scientists find out more from their experiments and the unexpected results they get along the way. Ask everyone if they found out anything they didn’t expect in the activity. Did they only answer their question or did they learn something else new along the way? Sometimes life’s a bit like that too, like when you’re on an expedition – you might not always end up where you expect, but what matters is the things you learn along the way.
Supervise young people, and only do science activities that are advised and age appropriate for your section. Test activities first, to make sure you’re confident you can lead them safely. Use protective clothing where necessary.